Chandigarh: Had it not been for the taint on his image from the Railgate scandal, it would have been a cakewalk for Pawan Kumar Bansal, the present MP from Chandigarh. Now, even political greenhorns are giving the seasoned Congress campaigner a tough time.
In the four-cornered contest for the lone seat in the Union Territory, Bansal is pitted against political lightweights such as Kirron Kher of the BJP, Gul Panag of the Aam Aadmi Party and Jannat Jahan of the Bahujan Samaj Party. While Kher and Panag are first-timers with little experience in politics, Jahan is a city corporator with little money or clout.
Bansal, who has had a strong grip over both the upper classes, businessmen, slum dwellers, colonies and the villages of the constituency comfortably won the last two Lok Sabha elections against his old rival Satya Pal Jain of the BJP. But this time around he is up against the ‘Modi wave’ as well as the growing influence of the AAP among the youth. Even Jannat Jahan of the BSP threatens to eat into his share of the backward classes vote.
There had been a tussle among those seeking tickets in both the Congress and the BJP before the final selection of candidates. Ever since Bansal was forced to resign his post as the Union Railway minister following the Railgate scam, his rivals in the party had begun dreaming of the party's ticket for the election.
But Bansal’s clout in the Congress had silenced them. Similarly both senior party leaders in the Chandigarh BJP - Satya Pal Jain and Harmohan Dhawan - had pressed the party high command for a ticket. But looking at the poor election record of both the leaders, the BJP thought it prudent to hand over the ticket to actor Kirron Kher who is very popular among the city citizens.
Unhappy over the party’s decision to give ticket to Kirron Kher, senior BJP leader and former Union Minister, Harmohan Dhawan, who has clout in the upper class and people in colonies and villages, had openly expressed his unhappiness. However, he appears to have fallen in line and is supporting Kher now.
From road shows to rallies, to door-to-door canvassing, the political parties have not left anything to chance, while making every effort to reach out to the voters of the constituency. Leaders from Sonia Gandhi to Narendra Modi, Mayawati and Kejriwal toured the city to seek votes for their respective candidates.
Modi, however, drew the maximum crowd in the city for his rally, followed by Kejriwal for his road show. Kirron Kher and Gul Panag brought in several film stars and celebrities including Anil Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Mukesh Rishi, Raghu Ram of of Roadies fame, and Rabbi Shergill, to attract the crowds and boost their electoral prospects.
Talking to Firstpost Gul Panag said Chandigarh lacks basic amenities.
"There are many schemes in place, but the plans have not been properly executed because of a lack of will among the concerned officials and a nexus between the bureaucracy and the elected representatives. The city was originally planned for just five lakh people, but the population has since doubled without provision for proper amenities and health care. We have to plan for the next 20 years. Besides we have to construct night shelters for beggars so that they are safe. We need to be more sensitive and caring towards our society," she said.
Panag says there is a need to involve the stakeholders in all policy making. Chandigarh has a lot of potential, but these have not been properly exploited. It can easily be developed into a medi-city, an education hub or a tourist centre, she said.
A question often asked to Kirron Kher is whether being an actor she will be able to pay any attention to Chandigarh if she wins the Lok Sabha seat.
"I am simply in love with Chandigarh. The city would be on my priority list when I win. I promise to stay in this beautiful city and not run away. The city’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded. I will focus on the development of villages and colonies. We also need better health care here. Welfare of the poor will be my top priority," Kher said.
She agreed that she lacked the experience of a politician, but said since she was sincere in her words and deeds, the pro-Modi wave will help her emerge victorious.
BSP candidate Jannat Jahan, a former banker and an MBA graduate, is confident she will pull through on the basis of her work. She blames Pawan Bansal of the Congress for not doing much for Chandigarh.
"Why is the city not as much developed as it should have been," she asked, adding that parties only pay lip service to the people, while not really caring for the poor people living in slums, colonies and villages.
"BSP is the only party that takes care of all sections of society," she said.
Bansal, however, is confident of his third consecutive victory.
"I am going to be the winner because the people here realise how I have been instrumental in all the developmental works of the city from rail to roads, to the airways, civic amenities, public transport, education, health, power supply, water supply, infrastructure, etc. I have helped make the city clean, green and modern. Let the other parties decide for themselves who will be number two and three in the race," Bansal said confidently.
As far as the Railgate scandal is concerned, the wily leader said he had been cleared in the alleged scam.
"Let the BJP and the others make unnecessary propaganda over the issue," he added.
But with the BJP and Congress engaged in such a tough fight with the AAP and the BSP lurking close behind, the electoral battle in Chandigarh will definitely be exciting.
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Updated Date: Apr 09, 2014 17:16:55 IST