Who Will be the Mayor of Shimla?

By Yashvardhan Singh

The Constitution of India- provides for a decentralized democratic system.  Although there are voices within the political circle that want us to have a One Nation-One Election, the current system is such that it provides for direct elections of public representatives at three separate levels i.e.- the Lok Sabha,  the Vidhan Sabha, and the Urban & Rural Local Governments. The recently concluded Shimla Municipal Corporation elections- were another iteration of the democratic promise under Part IX-A of the Constitution- that lays down the structure and system of decentralized government in our cities and towns, in this specific case the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC). For purposes of the 2023 elections, the SMC was divided into 34 wards of Municipal Councilor- constituencies. The Congress (INC) came out on top winning 70% of the seats- bagging 24 wards. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stood second with 9 seats and the Left represented by the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPIM) won a solitary seat from the Summerhill ward.

There are three things that catch our attention in the elections- Firstly, the Congress unit through the SMC elections indicated a change in their political arrangement, locally referred to as ‘vyavastha parivartan’. For the first time in many years- Congress did not contest the election with former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s image on the posters and banners. Although Ms. Pratibha Singh and Vikramaditya Singh did their share of the campaign, the Congress did not specifically allude to the work or contributions of the former CM and contested the elections under the new leadership and control of the current Chief Minister- Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and his lieutenants. Perhaps the current CM- by virtue of his role in deciding ticket distribution and the eventual campaign- indicated the shifting sands in the Congress Party’s state organization. The recognition of CM- Sukhu’s effort in the elections and his promise of implementing the Old Pension Scheme in the State was lauded by the Congress Party leadership, including party leader Rahul Gandhi. Hence, it can be said without much doubt that the decision of MC leadership in terms of the Mayor and their Deputy – will be the sole prerogative of the current CM. 

Secondly, the elections are an indication of a large number of women candidates that have entered the Mayoral house of Shimla. We all know that as per the law 17 out of the 34 wards- were reserved for women candidates. However, the results indicate that besides the stipulated 17 wards- women leaders have also bagged the elections in four unreserved wards- giving them a commanding majority of around 60% in the Mayoral house. It is hence, safe to assume that the Congress Party will appoint a woman as the Mayor or the Deputy Mayor- for certain. 

Thirdly, the Congress Party is seen to give due regard and recognition to its popular faces who are committed party workers and have served the party over multiple elections. Out of the 21 councilors at its disposal- it is perhaps certain that the party will choose the Mayor post- candidate from those councilors who have successfully bucked the anti-incumbency trend in their ward and are consistently popular in their respective wards.

One such councilor is Mrs. Uma Kaushal from the Tutikandi Ward i.e. (Ward No. 10). Ms. Kaushal and her family have shared an undisputed record- by holding on to the Ward in the SMC elections since the 1980s. Mrs. Kaushal is a third-time Councilor. Ms. Kaushal and her family have tirelessly worked for the people in Tutikandi and neighboring areas. In the current election also- she has managed to convincingly defeat the BJP candidate by a margin of over 520 votes- a huge margin in a poll where the total votes polled in the ward were around 1,900.

In conclusion, it can be presumed with great certainty that the Mayor of Shimla- will be from the Congress- will be handpicked by the CM and his close confidantes; will be a woman candidate; and will be someone like Ms. Uma Kaushal who is- a senior councilor and a very popular face of Shimla and more specifically her Ward.

( The writer is an Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and a voter of Shimla Municipal Corporation )

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