Chandigarh/ New Delhi:
Haryana’s ruling BJP-JJP suffered a setback in municipal elections on Wednesday, losing mayoral races in Sonipat and Ambala, as well as three of five other civic body polls.
Two of those three defeats were in Hisar’s Ukalana and Rewari’s Dharuhera – both of which are seen as strongholds of Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party.
The defeats come a year after the BJP-JJP came to power and amid protests over three agriculture laws passed by the BJP at the centre in September- protests fueled, in part, by farmers from the state.
Farmers in Ambala, from which district Home Minister Anil Vij is an MLA and a BJP leader is the MP, celebrated the ruling party’s defeat with gusto, sharing sweets, and breaking into song and dance.
The Haryana Janachetana Party’s Shakti Rani Sharma is set to be the mayor there, after winning by more than 800 votes. Rani Sharma is the wife of party chief Venod Sharma, an ex-Congress leader and former union minister. Their son, Manu Sharma, was convicted in the Jessica Lal murder case.
In Sonipat the Congress’ Lalit Batra won by nearly 14,000 votes. Party leader Srivatsa tweeted: “Congress has won Sonipat mayoral elections by a huge margin… Sonipat is right next to Singhu border (which) is the epicentre of farmer agitation in Haryana.”
The BJP did win the Panchkula mayoral race, with Kulbushan Goyal winning by around 2,000 votes.
The party did, however, make up some ground in seven municipal body elections.
In Ambala the BJP won eight of 20 seats, with the Janachetana Party claiming seven, the Congress three and the Haryana Democratic Front getting two.
In Sonipat the BJP won 10 wards and the Congress nine, with the remaining seat going to an independent candidate.
In Panchkula the BJP and Congress won nine and seven seats, respectively, with Deputy Chief Minister Chautala’s JJP claiming two. And the Rewari Municipal Council Chairperson’s seat was bagged by the party’s Poonam Yadav by 2,087 votes.
But the BJP-JJP duo failed to to win three other municipal committees – Dharuhera, Sampla and Uklana, with independent candidates winning in all three.
The farmers’ agitation had put Dushyant Chautala in a bind because farmers are his key voter base. Mr Chautala, who is the grandson of farmer leader and former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, earlier said he would quit if unable to ensure MSP – a key demand of protesting farmers.
Last week he faced a boycott in his home constituency – Jind’s Uchana Kalan – after irate villagers dug up a temporary helipad ahead of a scheduled public event.
Several other Haryana villages have called for a complete boycott of all members of the ruling coalition, amid widespread anger over the centre’s contentious farm laws.
With input from PTI