Chandigarh, Feb 17 | In a major rout for the opposition amid the farmers’ protest and just a year ahead of the Assembly polls in Punjab, the Congress won seven municipal corporations and was leading in other civic body polls, while the BJP, facing anger over the contentious Central farm laws, had a dismal show in its urban dominated segments.
The Congress won municipal corporations in Abohar, Bathinda, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Moga, Batala and Hoshiarpur.
The counting of votes for the Municipal Corporation in Mohali would take place on Thursday after repolling in two booths owing to reports of irregularities.
Besides the municipal corporations, polling for 109 municipal councils and municipal Panchayats was held on February 14. The counting of ballots are being held simultaneously.
Amid allegations of booth capturing and clashes, there was 71.39 per cent of the 39,15,280 electorate.
The main contest in the urban local bodies was among the Congress, the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is contesting the municipal polls for the first time, and the SAD.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contested the polls for the first time in two decades without the Akalis, the oldest NDA ally that parted ways from it over the farm laws. Both faced the challenge of contesting independently after a long break.
Ahead of the Assembly elections slated early next year, state’s main opposition AAP was trying to strengthen its ground in these polls by projecting itself as an alternative to the Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP amid the farmers’ agitation.
Political observers told IANS that the rout of AAP in these elections clearly indicated that urban voters have lost faith in the faction-ridden party in the state.
For the BJP, its rout was in its dominated Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Abohar segments.
Local issues of towns and cities and the respective wards dominated the campaigning.
A total of 9,222 candidates were in fray for 2,302 wards. Interestingly, 2,847 of them were Independents.
The Congress fielded 2,037 candidates, while there were 1,569 from SAD. The BJP, AAP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had fielded 1,003, 1,606 and 160 candidates, respectively.
In an embarrassment for the Congress and the BJP, the wife of Congress MLA from Moga, Harjot Kamal, and the wife of BJP leader Tiksan Sood from Hoshiarpur lost the election from their respective seats.
Political observers say these polls just a year ahead of the Assembly elections are a ‘semi-final’ for the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government that is eyeing to repeat its victory against the backdrop of the farm laws that have generated a wave of anger against the BJP.
On the eve of ballot count, a confident Chief Minister Amarinder Singh termed the allegations of the BJP and AAP on rigging of civic polls as a typical case of crying foul in the face of their imminent defeat in the election.
“It’s a panic reaction to their inevitable wipeout in these polls,” said the Chief Minister, adding that the BJP and AAP, as well as SAD, are all set to be completely trounced in these municipal polls, whose results will be the precursor of worse to come for these parties that have totally lost the confidence and trust of the people.
“All these parties have worked together to ruin Punjab, with the black farm laws the latest in the long line of their anti-people and anti-Punjab actions,” Amarinder Singh added.