‘Invalid votes’, ‘scandalous scuttling’: Newspapers today on Chandigarh mayor polls

The BJP controversially claimed victory yesterday. The AAP subsequently moved the high court.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Date:
Screenshot of proceedings during the announcement of results yesterday.
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Yesterday, the BJP claimed victory to the post of Chandigarh mayor in a curious sequence of events that the AAP and Congress, which were contesting together, called “fraud”

AAP-Congress candidate Kuldeep Singh seemed tipped to win when the presiding officer declared eight of the INDIA alliance votes to be “invalid”, giving the victory to the BJP’s Manoj Sonkar. The BJP was otherwise short of a simple majority in the 35-member municipal corporation.

The presiding officer, Anil Masih, is also a BJP worker.

Video footage of the proceedings show Sonkar taking the chair while Masih leaves with the ballot papers. 

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Top leaders – including Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, D Raja and Akhilesh Yadav – slammed the BJP for misuse of electoral machinery. The AAP has now moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court to set aside the election.

We checked top English newspapers this morning to see how they reported on what happened. 

The Indian Express’s front-page headline said “BJP takes post of Chandigarh Mayor, AAP and Cong say fraud”. The report, which continued on page 2, listed all the quotes from opposition leaders criticising the BJP.

“Incidentally, in a first, the media was kept away from the House and the poll proceedings were beamed on a screen outside the Municipal House,” the report said.

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The Hindu in Delhi only had the headline on page 1, devoting most of the page to a half-page ad for HDFC and two reports on Imran Khan and Hemant Soren.  

The story appeared on page 4 with the main headline “BJP trumps INDIA bloc in Chandigarh mayoral polls”. The allegations of fraud appeared in the strap and in two smaller stories below. The report detailed the “ruckus” that took place, with Arvind Kejriwal saying the BJP had displayed “blatant dishonesty” and “hooliganism”.

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The Times of India in Delhi said the INDIA alliance’s votes had been “invalidated”, sparking allegations of “fraud, forgery and sedition” and also “treason” and “unconstitutional meddling”. It included an image of INDIA candidate Kuldeep Singh weeping after the result was declared.

A story on page 14 was devoted to the presiding officer claiming opposition members “jumped on my table, snatched all the ballot papers and started running”.

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In Delhi, Hindustan Times took a stronger stand on page 1 with the headline “Chandigarh mayor drama: Invalid votes, and a BJP win”. It said the BJP’s win followed a “controversial decision” to scrap the opposition’s votes. 

“No official decision was given for the decision during the announcement of the results. Masih, later in the evening, said the ballot papers had some pen marks,” the report said. 

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Chandigarh’s own The Tribune used the headline “Saffron jolt to INDIA in Chandigarh mayoral polls amid rigging charge”. The report said “high drama prevailed” and alliance members subsequently boycotted the poll.

The newspaper also carried an editorial on the issue, saying: “Greater transparency could have prevented this unsavoury situation, especially considering the Congress-AAP allegation that their agent was not allowed to examine the ballot papers.” It also said it is “imperative to ascertain if the due process was strictly followed” and that the secrecy of the ballot “should not be misused to create opacity”.

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Finally, The Telegraph in Kolkata carried a one-column report on the poll on page 4.

“The INDIA bloc’s first attempt at a joint governance effort was scandalously scuttled by the BJP…” the report said.

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Newslaundry has reported in detail on the many challenges facing the INDIA alliance ahead of the 2024 polls. Read here.

This report was published with AI assistance.

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