Congress sweeps Punjab civic polls, boost for Amarinder

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Chandigarh, Feb 17 (PTI) The ruling Congress won six municipal corporations and emerged as the largest party in the seventh, sweeping the urban body polls in Punjab on Wednesday.

The party won Bathinda, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Abohar, Batala and Pathankot corporations in the civic polls on February 7, held against the backdrop of the farmers’ agitation over the new agri-marketing laws.

In Moga, the party needed victories in six more wards to control the municipal corporation.

The Congress also won a majority of the 109 municipal councils and nagar panchayats, officials said, adding the details would be known later.

Mohali too went to the polls but the counting there will take place Thursday, delayed because of a repoll at two booths.

The outcome comes as a boost to the Congress, which has been backing the protest by farmers – a majority of them from Punjab and Haryana – against the BJP-led government.

Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said people have rejected the “negative politics” of parties like the BJP, SAD and AAP. He rooted for renomination of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh when assembly elections are held early next year.

“I would like to launch a campaign, 'Captain for 2022'. Only he can steer the ship of the state through these turbulent times when Punjab is being discriminated against by the BJP-led Centre,” he told reporters.

The CM tweeted, “Today's results in MC Elections are the victory of each Punjabi. It is very clear that people of Punjab want development & will not be fooled by politics of hatred & theatrics.” Celebrations erupted in the Congress camp with party workers distributing sweets at many places.

The party celebrated the victory in Bathinda, which is Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s constituency. The Congress won 43 wards there and the SAD just seven.

Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said Bathinda will now get its first Congress mayor in 53 years.

In Moga, the only corporation among the seven to not deliver a clear verdict, the Congress won 20 of the 50 municipal wards. The SAD got 15, the Aam Aadmi Party 4, the Bharatiya Janata Party 1 and independents 10.

Moga Congress MLA Harjot Kamal's wife was among the losers there.

Earlier, the municipal corporations of Moga, Hoshiarpur, Bathinda and Pathankot were run by the SAD-BJP combine, when the two parties were allies and in power in the state.

The elections to municipal corporations of Abohar, Batala and Kapurthala were held for the first time.

The Punjab election campaign was marred by stray clashes between rival party workers with opposition leaders alleging at some places that their candidates were being stopped from filing nomination papers.

SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal thanked party workers who he said emerged as the 'only challengers' to the “corrupt and incompetent Congress”.

“Our workers battled unprecedented repression, money bags & govt machinery & yet emerged as a force to reckon with. Writing on the wall: 2022 elections on - Congress gone,” he tweeted.

AAP leader Harpal Singh Cheema said his party contested the civic polls in the state for the first time and would analyse its performance.

The Congress won most of the municipalities by a big margin.

The party won 49 wards in Abohar, leaving just one for the Akali Dal. It bagged 41 wards in Hoshiarpur, letting the BJP, the AAP and independents split the difference.

In Kapurthala, the Congress won 45 of the 50 wards and the Akalis got three. In Pathankot and Batala, it won 36 of the 50 wards in each corporation.

Altogether, 9,222 candidates contested the polls to the eight municipal corporations and 109 municipal councils.

The Congress fielded 2,037 candidates, the SAD 1,569, the BJP 1,003, the AAP 1,606 and the BSP 160. As many as 2,832 were independents. The voter turnout was over 70 per cent.

The elections, originally scheduled last year, were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. PTI CHS SUN HMB RDM ASH ASH ASH