Chandigarh, June 11
There is euphoria in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) - Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance about the results of the municipal corporation elections that were declared yesterday. The alliance has swept the poll in the four largest cities of the state - Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala.
But a close look at the number of seats that the alliance has won should be a sign of worry rather than jubilation. Barring Amritsar, the number of seats retained by the alliance has actually dipped.
Losing seats in three municipal corporations, barely four months after the alliance won the Assembly seats here, can at best be seen as early warning signs for the alliance.
Compared to the 2007 results, the share of the SAD-BJP seats has gone down. Coming at a time when the main Opposition Congress is fragmented and in disarray, the result shows that the people are beginning to get disillusioned with the delay in implementation of promises made before the Assembly elections.
The slight gain for the alliance in the Amritsar MC is perhaps because the Congress is the weakest in the Majha region. In Amritsar, the SAD seats have gone up marginally from 15 in 2007 to 24 now.
Similarly, the BJP has won 24 seats in this elections. It had 17 in the 2007 edition.
The alliance went in for the civic poll soon after the Assembly elections to take advantage of its preparedness. Though it has managed to retain its hold in all four cities, it needs to be cautious.
The reason for the decrease in the number of seats for the alliance could be its diversion from the citizen-centric announcements in the form of reforms it has announced prior to the Assembly poll.
In the four months since the alliance formed the government in Punjab for the historic second successive term, the work on reforms has slowed down. The police reforms remain on paper, the ‘suvidha kendras’ are non-functional at many places and the ‘fard kendras’ have also not delivered according to expectations. This perhaps has got reflected in the results.
The dip in the number of seats for the alliance could also be due to the shaking of the people’s confidence in the government due to events like honouring of Balwant Singh Rajoana, the assassin of former Chief Minister Beant Singh, with the title of living martyr. This coupled with the Blue Star Memorial in the Golden Temple complex also does not appear to have gone down well with the urban voters as these might be reminding them of the days of terrorism in the state.
Even a tussle for supremacy has begun between the SAD and BJP. In Amritsar, the BJP and the SAD have won 24 seats each, but now the state Election Commission has ordered a re-poll in ward 3.
Here Raj Kumar Jolly of the SAD is pitted against Surinder Chaudhary of the Congress. If after the re-poll the SAD candidate wins, the party will have one more seat than the BJP. It then could stake a claim for the Mayor’s position which was earlier with the BJP.
Party sources in the BJP said that the EC has ordered the re-poll on a very flimsy ground that someone, sitting outside the polling booth, was trying to hack the EVMs with a laptop — something which is not only improbable, but highly questionable as the ground for a re-poll. The BJP claimed that it has performed better than the SAD as it has managed to hold its ground in Jalandhar and Patiala, improved in Amritsar and suffered a marginal setback in Ludhiana.
Meanwhile, other smaller parties like the PPP, BSP and CPI have managed to mark a token presence by winning one seat each. In Ludhiana, SAD had won 33 seats in 2007 which is down to 29 this time. The SAD’s candidate for the Mayor’s position has lost. Even the seats for the BJP have come down from 17 to 13. In Patiala, the SAD has lost three seats. Now, it has 32 victories as compared to 35 last time. The BJP has just managed to retain its seven seats.
In Jalandhar too, both the SAD and BJP have seen a drop in seats. SAD is down from 12 to 11 and the BJP from 21 to 19. The Congress too has lost in terms of the number of seats, but the Congress was not expected to dominate these polls.