Congress loses Shimla local polls after 26 years (Lead)

May 28th, 2012 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party S0himla, May 28 (IANS) In a triangular contest, the Congress was Monday voted out of power from the Shimla Municipal Corporation after 26 years of rule, its candidates for the two top posts biting dusts, months ahead of the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections.

The local polls saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the single largest party, while the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) notched the top posts of mayor and deputy mayor, for which the elections were held directly for the first time.

In a major setback to the Congress, the party faced the humiliating defeat as it not only lost the majority in the 25-member house, but also lost the two top municipal posts.

The CPI-M has in recent years expanded its support base in Shimla. The city municipal corporation is one of the oldest civic bodies in the country.

The CPI-M’s mayoral candidate Sanjay Chauhan won the election by defeating his nearest BJP rival S.S. Minhas, a former surgeon, by 7,868 votes. Chauhan got 21,903 votes.

Congress candidate and sitting mayor Madhu Sood finished third with 13,278 votes.

Tikender Panwar of the CPI-M won the post of the deputy mayor by defeating his nearest rival Digvijay Chauhan of the BJP by a margin of 4,778 votes. Panwar polled 21,196 votes. Congress candidate Devinder Chauhan finished third (13,205 votes).

In the final vote tally, out of 25 wards, the Congress got 10, while the BJP won 12 and the CPI-M three. In the previous term, the Congress had 15 members, BJP eight and the CPI-M two.

The results are seen as a major setback for state Congress chief Kaul Singh. Most of the losing candidates are considered close to him.

“We welcome the verdict…I admit there must have been shortcomings on our part. But infighting to some extent cannot be ruled out,” Kaul Singh said.

BJP leader and Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the outcome of elections was rejection of the Congress, which had been ruling the corporation since 1986.

The stakes of both the BJP and the Congress were high at the civic polls as the state assembly polls are due in December 2012. The Congress campaign saw participation of two union ministers — Anand Sharma and Virbhadra Singh, whereas the BJP campaign was led by Dhumal. CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury also campaigned.

For the first time, 13 out of 25 wards were reserved for women even though the number of women voters was 36,194 compared to 43,762 men voters. Twelve seats were open for men, including two for the Scheduled Castes (SC).

The elections saw 64.08 percent polling Sunday. The municipal corporation house has 29 councillors, including 25 elected, three nominated, and local legislator Suresh Bhardwaj also has one vote.

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