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Shimla municipal polls postponed. Why that's a big deal

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 11 May 2017, 14:37 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

The Shimla Municipal Corporation elections have been postponed by the State Election Commission (SEC) in Himachal Pradesh. And, this issue is all set to snowball into a major political issue ahead of the state Assembly polls later this year.

The postponement has provided the BJP with enough ammunition to lambast the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government through the poll campaign that has already kicked off.

The opponents of the Congress will now be making it a point to raise the postponed polls an issue at every rally underlining that the civic body polls in the state's capital would be the precursor to the poll outcome for the state Assembly elections.

Till now the BJP has never been able to win the elections to the Shimla Municipal Corporation which is one of the oldest civic bodies in India. It is desperately looking for a victory in the forthcoming polls as the term of the present house is ending in the first week of June.

Counting on the victory wave

The party functionaries feel that the BJP is well placed for a victory this time. They want to ride on the strings of successes that the party has tasted in the recent polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections.

Their confidence is also buoyed by the recent rally addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Ridge in Shimla and the subsequent visit of the BJP president Amit Shah to the state. The party has also brought in Mangal Pandey as the new state in-charge of the party from Bihar.

The SEC has gone back to the mode of indirect elections for the posts of the mayor and the deputy mayor. It was during the previous BJP regime of Professor Prem Kumar Dhumal that the law was amended to choose the two office bearers through direct elections as the party was very confident of getting its leaders elected to the two posts.

But the results in 2012 were a shocker both for the BJP as well as the Congress as the people chose CPM representatives to the top two posts.

The law was amended again by the present Congress government to go back to the indirect mode of elections to the posts of the mayor and the deputy mayor.

The SEC claims to have postponed the polls in Himachal Pradesh keeping in view the complaints from political parties, mayor and councillors of the civic body besides other public representatives regarding discrepancies in the electoral rolls.

Figuring it out

The SEC claims to have taken a decision to correct the electoral rolls to ensure fair and smooth elections to the corporation.

A SEC spokesman said that the Election Registration Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner of Shimla prepared and notified the electoral rolls of the corporation on 5 May 2017, showing the number of total electors as 88,167. However, the chief election officer of the state had informed on the same date that the total number of electors enrolled by them was 85,546 for the area under the corporation.

He said both the electoral rolls were prepared with reference to same qualifying date (1 January 2017) and the difference was on the higher side. Moreover, 2,200 applications were still pending with the revising authorities.

The SEC has announced that the special revision of the electoral rolls would now be done from 15 to 23 June.

The verification of electors already enrolled in the final electoral rolls and receipt of claims and objections by the revising authority would be done from 15 to 24 May.

The work of preparations of the list of voters whose names are proposed for addition or deletion or correction would be undertaken from 25 to 29 May.

Sources said that with the term of the house now getting over on 4 June, the appointment of an administrator is being considered a foregone conclusion.

The electoral rolls will be finally published on 23 June.

All the main political parties – the Congress, the BJP and the CPM have been demanding the removal of the gross irregularities in the rolls where the names of many are either missing or have reflected at two places. Moreover, there are also several cases of names of those dead still figuring on the rolls.

Fixing errors

“We were the ones who had pointed to the discrepancies. It is after our writ that these developments have taken place. The postponement is fine but the main issue now is that what happens to the elected house. A referendum needs to be held and people must have a say whether they want the house to be run by an administrator or whether they want the present house to continue till the polls are held,” said Deputy Mayor Tikendar Panwar who belongs to the CPM.

Having found a potent issue to attack the Virbhadra government, the BJP has upped the ante on the issue.

Shimla MLA Suresh Bharadwaj held a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon where he pointed out that the government has got the local body polls postponed as it is afraid of a humiliating defeat.

“The delaying tactics are not going to save the Congress from an impending defeat in the Assembly elections,” he said.

Pointing a finger at the state election commissioner P Mitra, he said the postponement amounts to murder of democracy.

“He should be sacked immediately even if it requires amending the law,” added Bharadwaj.

To substantiate its claims that the postponement comes at the behest of Virbhadra, the BJP has pointed that the SEC move follows the issuing of summons to Virbhadra and his wife Pratibha Singh by a special court in Delhi. The couple was summoned two days ago in a case of disproportionate assets.

The BJP also held a protest on the issue in Shimla.

The Congress has shot back saying that it was the House in the Municipal Corporation of Shimla that had recently passed a special resolution seeking removal of anomalies in the electoral rolls. This resolution itself is the voice of the people as the councillors represent the masses.

The Congress leadership has pointed that there are six sitting councillors whose names are missing from the electoral rolls.

A party spokesperson said that the BJP will be getting a befitting reply from the people in the state Assembly polls for levelling unsubstantiated charges against the state government.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 11 May 2017, 14:00 IST
 
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