Gehlot, Joshi to stay away from civic polls

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot  

The ruling Congress in Rajasthan has decided to keep aside both Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Pradesh Congress Committee president and Union Minister C. P. Joshi from campaigning in the current elections to 126 civic bodies in the State. Instead, the party proposes to deploy the Ministers, MLAs, MPs and prominent leaders in their respective areas of influence. On the other hand, former Chief Minister and BJP general secretary Vasundhara Raje has already hit the campaign trail. The elections are scheduled for August 18.

“The civic elections are fought on local issues. Campaigning by local representatives such as MLAs, MPs and functionaries of the party organisation would be enough and appropriate,” said Chandra Bhan, PCC vice-president and convener of the election campaign committee, here on Wednesday. “The Congress prospects are bright. We have done enough preparations. Moreover, we expect the people to vote the Congress on the basis of the State Government's pro-people initiatives,” he noted.

In all, there are 10,131 candidates in the race for the posts of Mayors/Presiding Officers and ward members in 126 civic bodies spread over 31 districts of Rajasthan. Out of them 9,498 are contesting to fill 3,010 posts of ward members. There are 633 candidates contesting the posts of Mayor/Presiding Officers. Ajmer, which is a municipal corporation, will elect a Mayor while other civic bodies will have presiding officers and chairpersons. Two civic bodies—Bhilwara and Kishengarh—are municipal councils.

For the first time in these civic bodies, the 34.69 lakh-strong electorate will elect the Mayor and the chairpersons directly. Electronic voting machines will be put to use in the elections. The candidates this time include former MLAs as well.

Dr. Bhan claimed a head-start for his party as the State Election Commission, after the last day for withdrawals on Monday, announced the unopposed election of 86 ward members. Out of these, 36 belong to the Congress, 22 to the BJP and the remaining 27 are Independents. “This is an indication of the trend. The BJP has come third after Independents,” he argued.

Despite the growing murmurs in the public on price rise, the Congress is trying to keep its winning spree in Rajasthan-- after coming to power in December 2008-- intact as the party had very impressive wins in the Lok Sabha polls and the civic polls (first phase), held in October-November 2009 and the panchayat elections held early this year. Perhaps the good rainfall the State received in the second fortnight of July and the first week of this month would prove a blessing to the ruling party. Official candidates of both the Congress and the BJP are facing party rebels at many places.

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