Civic polls: Boost for BJP-JJP, downer for Cong in Haryana

With the ruling BJP-JJP combine winning 25 of the total 46 local bodies’ presidential posts in Haryana, the poll results are being interpreted as thumbs down for the Congress which did not fight the polls on party symbol , reports Rajesh Moudgil

The going seemed to getting tough for the ruling BJP-Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) combine in the recent elections to the 46 civic elections in Haryana initially when the two sought to fight the civic polls separately – even against each other at a few places. However, BJP and JJP finally reached an agreement and thus managed to win 25 of the total 46 local bodies’ presidential seats on their respective party symbols.

The main opposition party Congress which decided against entering  the fray on party symbol, has been left red-faced though it claims most of the independents who have won belong to them. The claims and counter-claims between the ruling coalition and the Congress have not ended as yet.

The election for the 18 municipal councils and 28 municipal committees was held on June 19 and the results of the same were declared on June 22. The results also sprang a surprise; the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) opened its account in Haryana by winning one post of president of Ismailabad municipal committee in district Kurukshetra.

The AAP fought the local bodies’ elections on the party symbol for the first time, though it had fought Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Haryana in the past but faced a drubbing. Kejriwal had even held a rally on May 29 in Kurukshetra with an eye on the upcoming local bodies’ polls and showcased the Delhi model as well as the recent landslide victory in Punjab.

Notably, it was the first time that the direct election of the presidents of the councils and committees was conducted this time even though it was first done for the election for mayors of municipal corporations in 2018. The councils and committees’ elections were due in 2021 though could not be held due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a case in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The Results

According to the state election commission, the chairperson/presidential candidates of BJP won in 10 councils and one of JJP out of the total 18 municipal councils. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) candidate won at one council. Independent candidates won in six councils though some of whom, Congress claims, were backed by it.

Likewise, the BJP presidential candidates won at 12 of the total 28 committees, independents at 13 places, JJP at two, and an AAP candidate at one committee, namely, Ismailabad municipal committee in district Kurukshetra. The AAP was, however, hoping for a better start and having a better foothold in Haryana and hence fought on its symbol after its landslide win in Punjab in March this year.

BJP’s Loss in CM’s District

Even though the chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and the BJP state president O P Dhankar held the results showed the people’s continuous support for the government, the defeat of the saffron party in the CM’s district, Karnal, has put the party in poor light. The BJP lost three out of four municipal committees in Nissing, Taraori and Assandh.

Reacting to the poll result, the Congress state president. Udai Bhan took a dig at the BJP-JJP combine, and said that the Congress did not fight the election on the symbol as there were more than one aspirants for tickets at all places but most of the candidates backed by it had won.

Stating that the defeat of BJP and its ally JJP in CM’s home district Karnal and deputy CM’s own constituency Uchana shows that the ruling combine has been out-rightly rejected by people at most of the places, Bhan said that the BJP had won 35 in the previous civic polls. This time, the BJP has got only 26% votes which also shows its rapidly falling graph.

Other Congress leaders including Rajya Sabha member Deepender Hooda also held that if BJP is happy with about 3.33 lakh votes out of total 12.71 lakh votes polled in Haryana civic elections, then it is the beginning of its political downfall. He went on to say that in these civic elections, 74 % of the people of the state rejected the BJP.

Congress’ defeat

The claims of win of several of the candidates backed by it notwithstanding, Congress’ loss in its own citadel – district Sonepat – shows a downer for it.

The municipal committee, Kundli, located on the border of Delhi which remained the epicentre of the farmers’ protest for one year saw a close contest between the ruling party BJP and AAP for the post of chairperson. BJP’s Sharmila defeated AAP candidate Anjali by a margin of 77 votes. An independent candidate, having Congress support, finished a poor third.

Likewise, in Ganaur municipal committee, the BJP’s Arun Tyagi defeated Congress-backed independent candidate Sat Prakash Sharma by a margin of 6,110 votes. Sharma was considered to be a close associate of former Speaker Kuldeep Sharma.

In Gohana municipal council, the BJP candidate Rajni Virmani bagged the president post by a margin of 3,040 votes for the second consecutive time while the Congress-supported independent candidate Shashi Kumar finished as poor third. It is pertinent to mention here that Gohana is considered as a stronghold of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Congress’ Jagbeer Malik.

Meanwhile, even though some of the political observers were of the view that the BJP might face the electoral wrath in the wake of widespread protest against Agnipath scheme, its win in the civic polls indicates the ruling alliance was consolidating its grounds also in the backdrop of contentious farm bills which the Centre was forced to repeal about following a year-long stir by farmers. It was because of the farmers’ anger against the said laws that the BJP lost its both by-elections in Haryana – Baroda and Ellenabad.

The Congress on the other hand has suffered two back-to-back setbacks in the past few days, courtesy the internal bickering. Besides the poor show in the civic polls, the Congress saw a humiliating defeat after it failed to ensure victory for its Rajya Sabha nominee Ajay Maken from Haryana despite having numbers and the BJP-JJP got independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma elected, a few days ago.