Astute strategy, teamwork, AAP factor: How Manish Tewari stumped BJP in Chandigarh - Hindustan Times
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Astute strategy, teamwork, AAP factor: How Manish Tewari stumped BJP in Chandigarh

By, Chandigarh
Jun 05, 2024 06:06 PM IST

Even though four-time MP from Chandigarh Pawan Kumar Bansal stayed away from campaigning for Tewari and minor factions were visible in the local unit initially, the Congress team, led by city president HS Lucky, fanned out a strategy to cover all sectors of city with focus on colonies and villages, where AAP has a strong presence

A strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJP, absence of former MP Kirron Kher, a manifesto that promised free power, electricity and no new taxes, a mayoral poll gone all wrong earlier this year, leaving the BJP red-faced and AAP’s strong presence in colonies and villages. All these factors, and more, were instrumental in ensuring a win for INDIA bloc candidate Manish Tewari on Tuesday.

Congress supporters celebrating Manish Tewari’s victory at CCET, Sector 26, in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (Keshav Singh/HT)
Congress supporters celebrating Manish Tewari’s victory at CCET, Sector 26, in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (Keshav Singh/HT)

The 10 years of BJP rule in Chandigarh gave birth to a strong anti-incumbency in the Chandigarh constituency. Coupled with absence of a Modi wave this time, the INDIA bloc relied heavily on the failure of BJP to fulfil promises in their manifestoes. In fact, candidate Manish Tewari held a press conference releasing a “chargesheet”, showcasing how none of the 56 promises made in 2019 to the people of Chandigarh were fulfilled by the BJP. With the largest party in MC’s house with 14 seats, the AAP had a strong presence in colonies and villages, which worked in favour of the alliance.

Even though four-time MP from Chandigarh Pawan Kumar Bansal stayed away from campaigning for Tewari and minor factions were visible in the local unit initially, the Congress team, led by city president HS Lucky, fanned out a strategy to cover all sectors of city with focus on colonies and villages, where AAP has a strong presence. Not only did they cover people encompassing all age groups, professions and classes, Tewari ensured a connect with the people, making his experience of winning two previous polls count and giving his rival BJP’s Sanjay Tandon a hard time through his rhetorical tweets.

Promises made in the manifesto, including free 20,000 litres of water to every household in Chandigarh every month, 300 units of free power to those having monthly income up to 20,000 and no new taxes to be imposed, clicked with the people especially those in colonies and villages.

The controversial mayoral elections on January 30 made headlines when defacement of eight ballot papers was caught on security cameras. The returning officer of these elections, Anil Masih, had swung the electoral results in favour of the BJP’s candidate. The Supreme Court had intervened on February 5 to seize the ballot papers and video records of the polling day. The SC also declared the AAP candidate as the winner. Manish Tewari, while campaigning, had been advocating that BJP murdered democracy and the tagline “a vote for Sanjay Tandon is a vote for Anil Masih” resonated with the voters.

Even though the BJP was quick to call him an “outsider”, the moment the Congress ticket was announced for him, Manish Tewari was able to instantly connect with the people of city and project his “Chandigarh boy” image. From visiting his alma mater St John’s High School to meeting advocates, Tewari brought his experience of winning two previous parliamentary elections along.

The fact that he lost his father, Rajya Sabha member VN Tewari, to an attack by terrorists in city, which Tewari evoked as “the blood of my family is mingled in the soil of Chandigarh”, also connected with a section of people.

The Chandigarh boy image was also endorsed by BJP’s Kirron Kher who called Tewari “Chandigarh ka beta”. While Tewari had experience of contesting three parliamentary elections from two different parliamentary constituencies, BJP’s Sanjay Tandon had none. Moreover, BJP’s own leader Smriti Irani said, “Modi ko jitana hai, Tandon toh bahana hai”, which went in Tewari’s favour.

AAP made its debut in Chandigarh in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, where its candidate Gul Panag was placed third.

The AAP candidate ate into Congress candidate Pawan Bansal’s traditional vote bank in the rehabilitated colonies and slums, grabbing 1.08 lakh votes (23.97%) compared to Bansal’s 1.21 lakh (26.84%). Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kirron Kher, who won the elections, received 1.91 lakh votes (42.20%).

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, though, AAP’s vote share was relegated to just 3.82%, with its candidate Harmohan Dhawan polling 13,781 votes. BJP’s Kirron Kher retained the seat by a margin of roughly 46,000 votes against Congress’ Bansal. Bansal had received 1.84 lakh votes (40.35%), behind Kher’s 2.31 lakh votes (50.64%).

But AAP made a strong comeback in its maiden municipal corporation elections in 2021, clinching 14 of the total 35 seats.Before the mayoral polls this year, the AAP and the Congress joined forces, going on to wrest the mayor’s seat from the BJP that had remained in power for eight straight years.

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