Chandigarh: BJP Wins Mayoral Polls, INDIA Bloc Cries Foul

Chandigarh: BJP Wins Mayoral Polls, INDIA Bloc Cries Foul

Alliance accuses presiding officer of grave irregularities in the mayoral polls.

Rajesh MoudgilUpdated: Tuesday, January 30, 2024, 07:52 PM IST
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BJP | Representational Picture

Chandigarh: In what came as a crude jolt to the INDIA bloc constituents - Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) - the BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar won the post of the mayor defeating AAP’s Kuldeep Dhalor Tita, also supported by Congress, here on Tuesday.

The high-adrenaline elections in which the alliance seemed to have a clear majority with 20 councillors – AAP – 13 and Congress – 7- in the 35-member Municipal Corporation House, was keenly watched by the top leaders of the trio majors, for being first such ``test’’ for the INDIA bloc against BJP.

Elections deferred till February 6

It was due to these numbers that the election which was first scheduled for January 18 but was abruptly deferred till February 6 as the presiding officer Anil Masih reported "ill", thus greatly anguishing the two allies and the AAP had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court which fixed the January 30 date.

Importantly enough, Masih was nominated (councillor) in October 2022, and was the BJP’s general secretary, Minority Morcha earlier.

The polling which began about an hour behind the schedule saw Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher, who is the ex-officio member of the House, cast her vote first. In all, the AAP and Congress together had 20 votes, the BJP had 15 plus one of Kher.

As the president officer Masih declared the results – BJP – 16, INDIA alliance – 12 and 8 votes, as invalid, the House erupted in angry slogan-shouting against him and BJP. In what was termed as one of the major goof-ups, Masih who himself counted the ballot papers, had not allowed candidates’ agents during the time of counting despite repeated demand by alliance councillors. He, however, told them he would show these to them later as per the norms, though he did not.

Other alleged irregularities committed during the polls was the scribbling by Masih on the ballot papers which he later held were his signatures as per the rules. Also, the alliance councillors rued against the absence of Masih’s reply to their question about the ground on which the eight votes were held invalid.

Such was the melee-like situation that marshals were called in to control the situation.

Blame game begins over tampering with votes

While the BJP councillors quickly seated Sonkar in the Mayor’s chair, the Congress and AAP councillors raised an uproar accusing Masih of tampering with the polled votes.

They alleged that the eight ballot papers were declared invalid in a premeditated manner as it was because of this that the agents of the AAP and Congress were not given access to the ballot papers and the presiding officer himself counted the votes and announced the results wounding up the process.

Cross voting

However, the BJP councillors and Sonkar who interacted with newspersons later, held that while the Congress and AAP had already refused to have truck in Punjab, in Chandigarh too, cross voting by some of their councillors were imminent. On the question about Masih’s role, the councillors said that if the AAP and Congress had any doubt about his integrity, they could have demanded change on January 18 itself.

Following the election of Sonkar, BJP’s councillor Kuljeet Singh won the post of senior deputy mayor and Rajinder Sharma, the post of deputy mayor.

Meanwhile, the AAP has also moved Punjab and Haryana High Court against the results, hearing in the case has been fixed for Wednesday.

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