How Krishna Gaur became Bhopal Mayor?
Posted December 24, 2009on:
Abha Singh, who? When the Congress announced her name as the party’s candidate for Mayor of Bhopal Municipal Corporation barely a couple of hours before the deadline for filing nominations was to expire, every one was asking the same question: who is Abha Singh? Even the Congress workers were wondering. When asked about Abha Singh, a senior Congress functionary said tartly: “ask Pachauriji” (PCC chief Suresh Pachauri).
She was pitted against the BJP’s Krishna Gaur, daughter-in-law of the septuagenarian Babulal Gaur, who has represented one of the Bhopal city constituencies in the Assembly since 1974, has been the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, has held several departments in the governments of Sunderlal Patwa, Uma Bharati and Shivraj Singh Chauhan and was the chief minister for over a year between the Uma Bharati and present Chauhan regimes.
Krishna was hardly out of the mourning period for her husband, who was killed in a road accident some years ago, when Gaur persuaded her to stop sulking at home and join him in his political activities. Gaur thus launched her political career, got her important positions in a State government undertaking and in the party organisation and ensured big hoardings showing her smiling face across the city on every conceivable occasion.
Krishna Gaur’s was thus a household name long before the election schedule was announced. All that the people knew about Abha Singh when she started her campaign was that she is the wife of some IPS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre but posted outside the State. The joke in the political circles was that Gaur has encashed his extremely good relations with the Congress leaders and got them agree to ensure a smooth sailing for his daughter-in-law. While the entire BJP was campaigning for Krishna Gaur, the “seniormost” Congress leader to accompany Abha Singh on her campaigns was a former member of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation. In fact, the Congress organisation was hardly visible in the elections.
Krishna Gaur’s victory with a thumping majority was thus taken for granted. Many were giving her a lead of over one lakh. Babulal Gaur, who had organised, managed and monitored the election himself, had modestly claimed that his daughter-in-law would have a victory margin of 50,000 to 60,000 votes. There were not many takers for Abha Singh whose campaign was comparatively quiet.
The results announced on December 15 came as a shock to the ruling BJP. Krishna Gaur’s victory margin was a mere 15,321. Abha Singh polled 2,46,893 votes against Krishna Gaur’s 2,62,214 votes. Some official help in favour of the ruling party candidate (which is not uncommon in Madhya Pradesh) cannot be ruled out. An exceedingly large number of ballot papers — over 20,000 — were rejected and Abha Singh’s demand for a recounting (since the margin of her defeat was just around 15,000 votes) was not heeded. Moreover, Abha Singh had complained about “unnecessary” delay in declaring results after the counting was completed for each round; she had alleged that the results in possession of her agents were different from those announced officially. Bhopal Collector Shiv Shankar Shukla, who was the returning officer, did not entertain her complaint.
Yes, it was the ballot papers. For inexplicable reasons, the State Election Commission, headed by retired chief secretary A.V.Singh, who has always been known for his addiction to partying rather than his devotion to discharging his professional duties diligently, had decided not to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in this month’s civic elections but use the old-fashioned ballot papers. Apparently to show his solidarity with the State Election Commissioner, Bhopal Collector Shiv Shankar Shukla, as the returning officer for Bhopal, had barred reporters, except when accompanied by government PROs, from entering the Old Jail compound where the counting was taking place.
Setback to BJP
If the BJP managed to get its Mayor in Bhopal with a question mark hanging over the integrity of the poll officials (Pachauri has lodged a formal complaint with the Governor), it could not retain its control over the Municipal Corporation. The Congress will have 40 members in a House of 70 and the BJP only 26. Four independents have also won. In the outgoing Corporation, the BJP was in a majority though the Mayor was a Congressman.
The BJP suffered setbacks not only in Bhopal but over a widespread area across the State. In Indore, which is considered a stronghold of the Sangh Parivar, the BJP’s Mayoral candidate Krishna Murari Moghe was declared elected by a small margin of 3309 votes against Pankaj Sanghvi of the Congress after rejecting over 22,000 votes. Sanghvi, too, suffered from a handicap similar to the one that had afflicted Abha Singh in Bhopal. Sanghvi was out of the Congress for a long time and was re-admitted to the party only a fortnight or so back. The BJP, however, retained its majority in the Indore Municipal Corporation.
The most stunning result has come from Sagar where Kamala Bua, a eunuch contesting as an independent, defeated Suman Ahirwar of the BJP by over 43,000 votes in the Mayoral election. In Katni and Dewas the Congress candidates have been elected Mayors while the BJP candidate has suffered defeat in the hands of the BSP’s Renu Shah in Singrauli. In Satna, too, the BSP’s Pushkar Singh defeated the Congress candidate, relegating the BJP to the third position.
The Congress has done pretty well not only in the Municipal Corporation elections but also in the Municipal Committee and Nagar Panchayat elections in the State, according to the results from those places where polling was held in the first round. The counting of the polls held in the second round was yet to take place.
The results so far give a clear indication of the people’s disenchantment with the BJP. The only problem is that there is no party to channelise the people’s resentment in its favour. Most of the BJP leaders had taken a keen interest in the civic elections. The same, however, cannot be said of the Congress which continues to give the impression of being a divided and leaderless party. All top State BJP leaders were present when State party president Narendra Singh Tomar released the party’s manifesto for the civic elections. The only leader standing beside Suresh Pachauri for the release of Congress manifesto was Aslam Sher Khan. Even Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Jamuna Devi, who was in Bhopal that day, did not feel like being seen with Pachauri on that occasion.