Chandigarh Mayor Manoj Sonkar Resigns Ahead Of Supreme Court Hearing In Vote-Count Row

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Chandigarh mayor poll was held on January 30.

Chandigarh:

BJP leader Manoj Sonkar resigned as Chandigarh mayor this evening, a day ahead of the Supreme Court hearing in the alleged tampering in the mayoral election. He won the poll – seen as the first election battle against the INDIA bloc by defeating the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Kuldeep Kumar – lest than a month ago, on January 30.

The BJP secured 16 votes and Kuldeep Singh, the joint candidate of the Congress and AAP was able to manage 12 votes. 8 votes – that became a flashpoint between the BJP and opposition – were declared invalid.

The troubles for the AAP, however, are far from over as three of its councillors – Poonam Devi, Neha and Gurcharan Kala – joined the BJP today. The BJP had 14 councillors in the 35-member Chandigarh Municipal Corporation and after today’s additions, the tally is at 17. They also have the support of one Shiromani Akali Dal councillor and BJP’s Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher also has voting rights as an ex-officio member which brings BJP to the magic number of 19.

The AAP now has 10 councillors while its ally Congress has seven.

Soon after the results were declared on January 30, chaos broke out in the House with Congress and AAP councillors accusing the BJP of cheating and not following the due electoral process. They also alleged that presiding officer Anil Masih was caught “tampering” with ballot papers in a video that they later submitted to the Supreme Court. The charge was rubbished by the BJP.

Appalled by the alleged defacing of ballot papers, the Supreme Court had said it amounted to a mockery of democracy and ordered that the ballots and the video of the electoral proceedings be preserved.

“Is this the behaviour of a returning officer? He looks at the camera, and defaces the ballot obviously,” Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said after viewing a video of the counting. 

The court had asked Masih, the designated council member, must appear before it on February 19.

The AAP and Congress described the court’s observations as a “tight slap” for the BJP.

The mayoral poll, originally scheduled for January 18, was deferred to February 6 by the Chandigarh administration after the presiding officer fell ill.

The High Court on January 24 directed the administration to hold the mayoral polls at 10 am on January 30. While dismissing the order postponing the elections, the court called it “unreasonable, unjustified and arbitrary”.

The AAP had first approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court and sought fresh elections under the supervision of a retired judge but the court refused to grant any interim relief. Kuldeep Kumar, who lost the Chandigarh mayoral election, then went to the Supreme Court against the High Court’s order.

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