Municipal polls: Litmus test for key political players. The December 17 elections to three Municipal Corporations – Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala, and 32 local bodies in the state, including municipal councils and nagar panchayats, have come as a litmus test for the three key political players- the ruling Congress, the prime Opposition Aam Aadmi Party and the SAD-BJP alliance to prove their popularity among the masses. Though the Congress and the SAD-BJP are the old rivals, it will be a debut of AAP in the local bodies’ polls. However, the elections hold equal importance for all three as the ruler has to prove its might and the other two strongly aspire for a revival in fortunes after facing a near rout in Vidhan Sabha polls held earlier this year.If one goes by the previous statistics, it is generally the ruling party that wins the local bodies’ polls. However, this time the Opposition, which is further divided in two major parts, is hopeful to break the wheel. The AAP as well as the SAD-BJP alliance, after performing too poorly in the Vidhan Sabha polls held earlier this year, with one bagging 22 seats, including two in alliance with the Lok Insaaf Party, and the latter bagging just a total of 18 seats, now expect that people will vote in their favour as mark of their acceptance and the rejection of unfulfilled promises of the ruling Congress.Though it’s primarily an urban affair, the parties in Opposition have put the Congress led government’s unfulfilled promise of farmers’ debt waiver at the top of their agenda to highlight while seeking votes. Further, employment to every household, revision and timely disbursement of pension and Shagun amounts, curtailing the prices of liquor and sand, smartphones to the youth of the state are few of the prime issues which both of them have kept in the list of unfilled promises. Besides, the list of untraced criminal cases including the high-profile murders and the sacrilege of holy books are also to get mention in their speeches to prove lawlessness in the state.Meanwhile, the Akali Dal BJP alliance, that has ruled the state for 10 years, claims to have an edge over the AAP when it is about proving credentials. While the AAP says that it would showcase the works done by the party in Delhi to the urban voters to woo them, the SAD-BJP alliance has reportedly prepared the lists of all development works the state witnessed during its rule from 2007-17. They have also gathered the information about the current status of the incomplete projects to accuse the Congress-led government of having stopped all ongoing development works.Immediately after coming to power this year, the state government had called back the funds from the municipalities which were earlier issued for the developmental works. The reason was cited that the state would have a transparent audit of the previous jobs and then give a strong push of development to the state. However, waiting for that strong push for the past about eight months, almost every developmental work in the cities has now come to a standstill. Further, facing the funds crunch, some of the municipalities have even stopped the routine maintenance works, claiming it to be ‘Sidhu’s wish.Terming it all a baseless propaganda being done by the opponents, the Congress leaders, however, claim that every town and city is getting the requisite amount of money from the state exchequer, despite the poor fiscal condition of the state, for which they blame the previous SAD-BJP rule in Punjab and the incumbent Modi government in the Centre. Hopeful to gain control of these local bodies, the Congress cites the recently-held Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-polls results while also boasting of winning 77 seats of Vidhan Sabha in its kitty. Mentioning the demonetisation followed by the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Congress claims that businessman is all fed up with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is the Akalis’ “urban ally in Punjab.Meanwhile, claiming the AAP too weak to take on the Congress in any polls for its own house is not in order, the Congress leadership foresees a yet another victory. While justifying the sanguinity, the ruling party leaders further say that both of their opponents busy in hitting each other would be unable to preserve their vote bank. Let all these rivals keep claiming about their victory already written on the wall, all this guesswork and ambiguity is set to get cleared on December 17 as the election results to all 60 wards in Patiala, 80 wards in Jalandhar and 85 wards in Amritsar will be declared on the same day.
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