External and internal challenges keep Chandigarh candidates on their toes

Congress leader and former Union minister Manish Tewari, who is contesting from Chandigarh for the first time, is pitted against the BJP’s Sanjay Tandon, who is eyeing his Parliament debut from this seat.
Congress MP Manish Tewari
Congress MP Manish Tewari (File Photo | PTI)

CHANDIGARH: For voters of Chandigarh constituency, Lok Sabha polls mean a familiar face or two on the ballot. But it is an entirely different scenario this time as there are no repeat candidates. Congress leader and former Union minister Manish Tewari, who is contesting from Chandigarh for the first time, is pitted against the BJP’s Sanjay Tandon, who is eyeing his Parliament debut from this seat.

To field Tewari, the Congress has benched former Union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who was the party’s Chandigarh candidate in the past four elections. The BJP, too, has dropped sitting MP Kirron Kher, who has represented the seat twice.

Tewari, 58, hopes to spoil the BJP’s chances with the support of the AAP whereas Tandon, 60, believes his ‘local man’ status will help him. Tandon is the former chief of BJP’s Chandigarh unit.

As the fight gets fiercer, both have a common problem to deal with — bickering in their respective camps. Denying ticket to Bansal caused a mini revolt in the Congress with many local leaders resigning. They were triggered after Congress’s Chandigarh unit chief H S Lucky allegedly mocked Bansal on the ticket issue. For the record, Bansal maintains he is a Congress loyalist but is hardly seen campaigning for Tewari.

All is not well with the BJP either as former MP Satya Pal Jain, who was keen to contest again from Chandigarh, is hardly campaigning for Tandon.

Not just Jain, many other party leaders and councilors have been conspicuous by their absence in Tandon’s campaign. Despite these challenges, both the candidates have their hopes up. The full support of the AAP will also come in handy for Tewari while the Modi factor will boost Tandon’s prospects.

Among other things, the Congress is highlighting BJP MP Kirron Kher’s long absence from the constituency to show the saffron party in poor light. Mumbai-based Kher was away for nearly a year after she was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo treatment. As for the BJP, it has labeled Tewari as an outsider, forcing the latter to highlight his schooling from the city as proof of his Chandigarh roots. Tewari was born in Ludhiana and is the sitting MP from Anandpur Sahib.

Tandon, son of for mer Chhattisgarh governor late Balram Das Tandon, who was also one of the founding members of the Jan Sangh, terms Tewari a constituency hopper. “After his term in Ludhiana and Anandpur Sahib, he has come here as tourist,” he says, alleging that the Congress candidate does not even know the names of the sectors and villages of Chandigarh.

In response to Tandon’s remarks, Tewari says the BJP has been in power for the past 10 years but it has failed to fulfil the promises in its manifesto. He notes that the BJP had promised a mono rail in Chandigarh in its 2019 manifesto but did nothing about it. Nor was there any progress on the Metro project, Tewari pointed out adding that the city’s roads remain clogged due to heavy traffic.

“Tandon owes it to the people of the city, as he was the Chandigarh BJP president for eight years during this period,” he says. There are 25 colonies in the city that have nearly half of the constituency’s total voters, who can decide will be the next MP. Of the 6,47,291 registered voters in the constituency, around 3 lakh are residents of these colonies, which are plagued by various civic issues.

Both the candidates are campaigning in these colonies to woo the influential electorate. In 2019, the voter turnout from these colonies was 74%.

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