By Arun Pratap Singh
20 Nov: The ruling BJP failed to perform impressively in the municipal polls as independents sprang a major surprise throughout the state. The setback for Congress is bigger as it failed to take advantage of the space ceded by the BJP and, as a result, independents won huge for the first time in the state. However, the BJP not only managed to ensure a huge lead on the Dehradun mayoral post for the third time in a row, but won the Mayoral poll in Rishikesh, Kashipur and Rudrapur. It was leading by more than 9,000 votes in Dehradun. Congress, on the other hand, was leading in Kotdwar, while in Haridwar and Haldwani, the lead was swinging between both the parties although the BJP candidates were leading in Haridwar and Haldwani at the time of filing this report, around 11 p.m. In all, BJP could win between four to six mayoral posts out of seven, while the remaining would go to Congress.
Despite leading in the mayoral poll in Dehradun Nagar Nigam, the BJP could not ensure a clear majority in the Dehradun Municipal Corporation Board. Independent candidates sprang a major surprise by leading the parties in the municipal wards across the state though they could not perform as well in Dehradun. At the time of filing the report, BJP had won 25 of the 100 wards, while Congress had won 20 and independents, too, had won 5 seats. BJP by virtue of being in power in the state is likely to nominate a number of corporators in Dehradun Nagar Nigam and, therefore, ensure a clear majority for itself here.
Polls were conducted for 84 out of 92 urban local bodies in Uttarakhand. Of them, 7 bodies are municipal corporations, 36 are municipal councils while 38 are town areas. A total of 1148 candidates were in the fray. BJP has won or is leading in a majority of chairperson posts. It had already won 32 posts by the time this report was filed and was leading in a few more, while Congress was leading/won in 26 posts. Independents too managed to win 21 posts by the time the report was filed. Interestingly, even BSP was leading in one. Out of a total of 1064 wards, independents had already won more than 475 seats and were leading in 41 more seats at the time of filing the report. BJP had won or was leading in 255 seats, while Congress had won or was leading on 151 seats. BSP had won 1 seat and was leading in another. AAP too opened its account in Uttarakhand by winning two seats in all. The Samajwadi Party won 1 seat, while UKD took one seat. No trends were available in 138 seats by the time of filing this report.
The Rishikesh Mayoral poll was won by the BJP candidate Anita Mamgain by a huge margin of over 11,000 votes, defeating independent Veena Deep Sharma and Laxmi Sajwan of the Congress. In Rudrapur, BJP candidate Rampal defeated Congress candidate Nandlal by a margin of over 5,000 votes. Similarly, in Kashipur, BJP’s Usha Chaudhary won against the Congress candidate. Congress candidate Hemlata Negi, who is wife of former minister and senior Congress leader Surendra Singh Negi, was leading in Kotdwar against the BJP candidate Deepa Rawat who is wife of Lansdowne MLA Dilip Rawat. Cabinet Minister Harak Singh Rawat represents this seat in the assembly and he is understood to be angry with the party over the choice of candidate from Kotdwar. In Haldwani, initially the BJP candidate and outgoing municipal chairperson Jogendra Rautela was leading against Sumit Hridayesh of Congress, who happens to be son of Leader of the Opposition Indira Hridayesh. However, the lead kept on swinging between the BJP and the Congress candidate. The BJP candidate was leading at the time of filing the report. In Haridwar, too, Congress candidate Anita Sharma was leading but ceded the lead to the BJP candidate Anu Kakkar and this continued till the time of filing the report.
Among the big names who won was Yashpal Benam of BJP. He easily defeated his nearest rival of Congress for the post of municipal chairperson, Pauri, by a margin of over 2500 votes. It may be recalled that Benam had in the past, too, won here and had also been elected MLA from Pauri seat in the 2009 assembly polls. Benam had switched over from Congress to the BJP only days before the polls. BJP should be disappointed with the results in Champawat, Almora and Uttarkashi districts.
The hottest seat in mayoral elections was, of course, Dehradun. BJP had the highest stake here having won the polls here twice in a row. From that perspective, BJP did manage to retain its reputation here since it was a high stake poll for BJP. It had everything to lose rather than gain in the municipal polls because not only was it ruling the majority of the urban local bodies in the state, but is in power in the state with a brute majority as well at the Centre. Additionally, personal stakes were also high for top BJP leaders. For example, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat’s reputation was at stake not only in Dehradun Nagar Nigam but also Doiwala town area and in Satpuli, Pauri. Rawat managed to save his reputation in the Nigam since BJP won the Mayoral seat here with a large margin. The fight in Doiwala from where he is MLA was very close indeed, but the BJP had already lost the poll of Nagar Panchayat Pramukh. The BJP candidate had been personally handpicked by the CM, so it can be considered to be a personal setback for him. The stakes were also high for BJP State President Ajay Bhatt, who could not manage to ensure a win in his own constituency, but Cabinet Minister Prakash Pant managed to save his reputation by managing to ensure a win for BJP candidate Rajendra Rawat by a huge margin in Pithoragarh, which is his assembly constituency. In Mussoorie, Congress rebel Anuj Gupta managed to win the post of Mussoorie municipal chairman, defeating his nearest rival of the Congress while BJP could only manage third position. It performed very badly in the wards, too, not winning even a single seat.
It was interesting to see that most of the wins in the wards were with very low margins with the lowest margin being an equal number of votes in Deoprayag, where the result had to be declared with the toss of a coin. In many seats, margins were as low as ten to fifty votes.