After shaking the old Congress bastion five years back, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finally conquered the fort here for the first time in 31 years as it got its Mayor and Deputy Mayor elected in the prestigious Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday.
The BJP, which was one short of simple majority with 17 seats out of 34 in SMC, got the support of two independents in Mayor’s election, and three independents in Deputy Mayor’s election.
BJP-backed Kusum Sadret is the new Mayor and Rakesh Sharma, an independent, who contested as BJP rebel, was elected as Deputy Mayor.
They defeated the Congress candidates for coveted posts, even as the lone CPI-M councillor stayed away from the poll. The election was postponed on Monday for want of quorum as Congress backed councillors had abstained. The SMC polls were not held on party symbols, but the political parties had officially declared their candidates.
One of the oldest municipalities in the country since British times, Shimla became Municipal Corporation in 1986.
It was dominated by Congress for 26 years. In 2012 SMC polls, the BJP got maximum 12 out of 25 seats in SMC and Congress ten. While CPI-M got just three seats in the house then, it made it to top posts of Mayor and Deputy Mayor in direct elections, an amendment made by the then BJP government for civic bodies.
Immediately after the declaration of results by Director, Urban Development, DK Gupta the BJP workers, led by state BJP chief, Satpal Singh Satti took out a victory procession. BJP MLA from Shimla, Suresh Bhardwaj and chief spokesperson and party incharge for Shimla MC polls, Rajeev Bindal also participated.
“We could have expected a bigger victory, had the polls been on party symbols. But the people who were claiming to stop the Modi wave in Shimla have badly failed,” former BJP chief minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal told mediapersons later. He, however, stressed the need for self-introspection by BJP as a political party after poll outcome.
He said the Congress government tried to postpone MC poll in connivance with State Election Commission. “The polls were held on the directions of High Court on a petition by BJP worker, Raju Thakur. With the help of Shimla voters, the BJP has been able to oust the ‘powers’, responsible for supplying contaminated water and spreading jaundice that claimed several lives,” he said. He said supply of clean and adequate drinking water will be the priority of BJP ruled MC in Shimla.
Dhumal said the party did not have difficulty in proving mandate. “We were just cautious as we had learnt a lesson from 1998 assembly polls, when Congress had formed 13-day government forcibly.”