Congress embarrassed after drubbing by Akalis (Punjab Newsletter)
Chandigarh, June 15 (IANS) As if the "surprising" loss in January's assembly elections was not enough, the opposition Congress has been further decimated in Punjab by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in the latest civic elections in the state this week.
The Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance in the state has dominated the results in the civic polls. Besides winning the four municipal corporations of Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala and Jalandhar, the combine prevailed in three other municipal councils and 26 nagar panchayats too.
The Congress leadership, particularly state party president Amarinder Singh, had dubbed the municipal elections "murder of democracy" with allegations of booth capturing, intimidation and brutal abuse of state power against the ruling alliance. But Congress leaders knew that they were fighting a losing battle right from the beginning.
Fresh from the historic victory in the assembly elections, the first time that a party returned to power in Punjab for a second consecutive term in over 45 years, the Akali Dal never let the momentum go and emerged triumphant in the municipal polls.
What was embarrassing for the Congress and particularly Amarinder Singh, who had earlier described the loss in the assembly elections as "surprising", was that the combine won the Patiala municipal corporation comfortably - bagging 39 seats out of the 49 results declared.
Patiala is the home town of Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, and holds a lot of sway in the city. His wife and union minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur is the Lok Sabha MP from Patiala.
Criticising the role of the local administration and the Punjab Police in aiding the ruling alliance in the municipal elections, Amarinder Singh said: "It is the saddest day in the history of Punjab when the Akali-BJP alliance let loose a reign of terror in a city like Patiala and did not allow people to cast their votes."
But the Akalis were quick to dismiss Amarinder Singh's allegations.
"The verdict in the civic polls is a complete rejection of the anti-people Congress party. The election results were an approval of the development oriented, pro-poor and pro-people policies of Akali Dal-BJP government. The Congress only wants to derail the development in Punjab," Akali Dal president and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said after the results were announced.
Describing it as a colossal defeat for the Congress, minister Bikram Singh Majithia said: "The people of Punjab have given the mandate in favour of development, vision and people-friendly policies of Akali Dal-BJP alliance. The defeat of the Congress party in Vidhan Sabha and municipal corporation polls would eliminate the anti-people Congress party from the political map of Punjab."
What must have been heartening in the civic poll results for the Akali Dal is the fact that the party has been able to shun its image of being a party of rural people and farmers as it improved its showing in urban areas. These areas, earlier, were the domain of the BJP.
The party did exceedingly well in the urban area which fell under the jurisdiction of civic bodies.
In Patiala, the Akalis won 32 of the 35 seats contested. The BJP won seven out of the 15 seats contested.
In Amritsar, the Akalis won 24 out of the 27 seats contested whereas the BJP won 24 seats out of 38 contested. In Jalandhar, the Akali Dal won 11 of the 30 seats won by the alliance.
In Ludhiana, the Akali Dal won 29 out of the 38 seats contested while the BJP won 13 out of the 37 seats contested.
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