The Chandigarh mayoral election will take place today, pitting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against an alliance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress. In what will be the first clash between the NDA and the INDIA bloc before the general elections, an extensive police deployment has been arranged, involving around 800 police personnel and additional forces from the paramilitary, with a three-layer barricade securing the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation.
Originally scheduled for January 18, the mayoral polls were postponed to February 6 by the Chandigarh administration due to the illness of the presiding officer Anil Masih. The decision to defer was also attributed to the prevailing law-and-order situation. However, this move was met with protests from Congress and AAP councillors. Mr Masih, who, despite apparent health issues, was reappointed as the presiding authority.
The Chandigarh Press Club has also appealed to the Centre to permit media coverage of the voting process, despite an initial denial of access to journalists.
In the 35-member Municipal Corporation House, the AAP and Congress alliance hold a combined total of 20 votes, posing a formidable challenge to the BJP’s 15 votes, which includes 14 councillors and the additional vote of MP Kirron Kher. The magic number for victory stands at 19.
The election process has not been without its share of legal hurdles. The Punjab and Haryana High Court, in its January 24 order, directed the Chandigarh administration to conduct the mayoral polls today, quashing the earlier postponement deemed “unreasonable, unjustified, and arbitrary.” The court stressed the need for free and fair elections, prohibiting councillors from being accompanied by supporters or security personnel from other states.
All parties involved have adopted a cautious approach, keeping their councillors on the move before the polling day.
The AAP-Congress alliance has strategically nominated candidates for the various positions. Kuldeep Kumar, representing the AAP, is contesting for the mayoral post, while the Congress is fielding candidates for senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor.
The AAP-Congress alliance seeks to break the BJP’s eight-year rule
Voting is set to begin at 10 am. The Congress abstained from voting in 2022 and 2023, resulting in the BJP’s victory in those polls. The election process for the mayor’s position is conducted through a secret ballot.
In this year’s elections, the mayor’s seat is reserved for the Scheduled Caste category, with Manoj Sonkar representing the BJP and Mr Kumar from the AAP as the contenders. The senior deputy mayor post will see Kuljeet Sandhu of the BJP facing off against Congress’s Gurpreet Singh Gabi, while the deputy mayor position will be contested between BJP’s Rajinder Sharma and Congress’s Nirmala Devi.