Here is what BJP, Congress, AAP are doing in Chandigarh
New Delhi, May 13: Voting will be conducted in the Union Territory Chandigarh in the seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 19.
The Union territory (UT) is the capital of two states, Punjab and Haryana, and has only one Lok Sabha seat with 6,19,792 eligible voters.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has repeated its sitting MP Kirron Kher and the Congress has given the ticket to former Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who won the seat for the party in 1991, 1999, 2004, and 2009.
In 2014, Kher defeated Bansal by a margin of 69,643 votes. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Gul Panag was on the third spot by bagging 10,8,679 votes.
AAP has replaced Gul Panag with Harmohan Dhawan, a senior BJP leader who joined AAP in November 2018.
Dhawan's candidature has made the fight triangular. Chances are that Dhawan might take away traditional BJP votes as he had supported Kirron Kher in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Dhawan has been telling voters that Kher has ignored them after winning the election as most of the time she stayed away from Chandigarh.
However, the BJP doesn't see Dhawan as a real threat.
"Gul Panag had got over 1 lakh votes in 2014 because she had earned a name for herself in the film industry. Moreover, AAP was quite popular at that time. Now, the situation is different,"says a BJP leader.
"Many AAP leaders have joined the Congress. The AAP's popularity has nosedived and it will be a challenge for Dhawan to retain those voters who had supported Panag in 2014, " adds the leader.
He claims that Kher would again win the seat as the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still intact.
However, a journalist tells OneIndia that taking Dhawan lightly may not be a wise idea as he is an old hawk in Chandigarh politics and won the seat back in 1989.
Congress candidate Bansal has also been targeting Kirron Kher by saying that she didn't keep even her single promise of 2014.
Both Dhawan and Bansal have been cornering Kher by raising issues such as unemployment, water scarcity, drugs and the crime committed by the addicts.
However, the journalist says that Kher's personal equation with the electorate gives her an edge as the city has a rich and urban population that tends to give nationalism a lot of importance.
Rather than Dhawan, the BJP is considering Bansal as a threat considering his track record of winning the Chandigarh seat.
"Therefore, in one to one campaigning the BJP cadres are also refreshing up the corruption case involving Bansal's nephew in 2013. Though Bansal has been given a clean chit by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), but many still believe that his nephew couldn't have accepted the money without being confident of getting his client the desired post," the journalist tells OneIndia.
The CBI had arrested his nephew Vijay Singla on May 3, 2013, for taking a bribe of Rs 90 lakh to provide a plum posting on the railway board to one Mahesh Kumar. Ten people, including Kumar and Singla, were named in the chargesheet.
After the scam came to light, the CBI interrogated Bansal for ten hours, but failed to find substantial evidence to nail him. In his statement, Bansal denied having any knowledge of his nephew's activities.
Interestingly, Chandigarh has the highest average number of candidates contesting among the Union Territories. There are 36 candidates in the fray for one seat.
According to the journalist, many of these candidates are dummy candidates who have been contesting the elections with the covert support of BJP, Congress, or AAP to divide votes of their opponents.
A look back says that the Congress has won the seat seven times and BJP three times.
However, the first election in 1967 was won by BJP's mother organisation Bharatiya Jan Sangh. Anti-Indira wave in 1977 had made Janata Party candidate victorious. AAP candidate Dhawan had bagged the seat in 1989 as now-defunct Janata Dal candidate.