Chandigarh: The ruling BJP on Wednesday swept the mayoral elections in five cities of Haryana, with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar terming it as an endorsement of the policies and development agenda of the government.
The BJP's mayoral candidates from Hisar, Karnal, Panipat, Rohtak and Yamunanagar registered victories in the elections held on Sunday, state election commission officials said.
Though opposition Congress did not contest these polls, some of its leaders extended support to independents. The INLD-BSP combine, which was contesting some of the mayoral seats on their party symbols, faced a severe beating and was even behind the independents.
The BJP also bagged majority in Karnal, Panipat and Yamunanagar municipal corporations.
It was the first time that mayors of the five municipal corporations were elected directly. Earlier, the councillors used to elect the mayors.
Also, the Haryana Election Commission had decided to treat 'none-of-the-above' or NOTA option as a "fictional candidate", making it must for winning candidates to secure more votes than those cast for NOTA. In case, NOTA would have got more votes, the election would have been held afresh.
NOTA polled over 7,500 votes across the five cities.
The election was considered a battle of prestige for the chief minister who had campaigned extensively.
After BJP candidates registered victory in all the five urban areas defeating their nearest rivals, all independents, the chief minister said it was stamp of approval from the people on the government's policies.
Asked if there was a possibility that Assembly polls, which are due in October next year, could be held together with the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Khattar told reporters, "If there is any proposal from the Centre's side, we are ready (for the assembly polls). But on our part, we have said that these polls will be held as per schedule."
From Panipat, Avneet Kaur registered a massive victory over her nearest rival Anshu Kaur, who was backed by a local Congress leader. The BJP candidate had polled 1,26,321 votes and won by a margin of 74,940 votes.
Immediately after her win, Avneet said among her immediate priority will be to come up with a plan to decongest traffic in Panipat city.
From Khattar's home constituency Karnal, Renu Bala Gupta overcame a combined opposition challenge. She defeated Asha Wadhwa, who was supported by Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress, by a margin of 9,348 votes.
Gautam Sardana defeated Rekha Aren by a margin of 28,091 votes to register win from Hisar, where the rival candidate was supported by two senior Congress leaders from there.
Manmohan Goyal defeated Congress-supported Sita Ram from Rohtak by a margin of 14,776 votes while in Yamunanagar, Madan Singh defeated Rakesh Kumar.
There are 10 municipal corporations in the state and polls were earlier held in Gurugram and Faridabad. Due to delimitation exercise and related litigation, municipal polls are yet to be held in Sonipat, Panchkula and Ambala.
Expressing happiness over the election results, Khattar told reporters, "I congratulate the people of Haryana. Our candidates have registered wins at five places while majority of our councillors too have won. This is victory of people of Haryana, victory of our workers."
"People have endorsed our government's policies, our development agenda and various initiatives which we have taken to take the state forward during the past four years. It is a stamp of approval from the public' ? This is victory of our government's achievements. To serve people has been our priority and will remain so in future also," he said.
Opposition parties had targeted the chief minister for allegedly playing 'Punjabi' card to woo the urban voters in these polls. Khattar was asked about a controversial advertisement for which Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had targeted him during his Sonipat visit a few days ago.
Khattar said he had nothing to do with that particular advertisement and that people issue advertisements on their own.
He also added: "We are committed to development of entire state, from day one we have said 'Haryana Ek, Haryanvi Ek', this is the mantra we believe in. People belong to different castes, but we do not discriminate on basis of caste, we treat all as one."
Replying to a question on civic polls, he said the opposition had to bite the dust."Opposition had shown great unity in Karnal, but there too they were defeated," he said.
He congratulated Avneet Kaur from Panipat and said she deserved special appreciation for her "landslide win".
Replying to a question, Khattar said "civic, assembly and Lok Sabha polls are all different in nature" and he does not treat any election as 'semi-final'.
He, however, said that the win will give a boost to the ruling party to work even harder to take the state on the path of progress.
Asked about demands by opposition for voting through ballot paper, Khattar said: "When they win, the same EVM is good for them. When they lose, they raise doubts over EVM, this has become their habit. The EVM system is good, it is transparent and results are out in shortest period of time".
To another question, Khattar said it is up to the Election Commission to see when it wantz to hold bypolls to Jind assembly segment, which has fallen vacant after the death of INLD MLA Hari Chand Middha in August.
Polls had also been held for two municipal committees of Jakhal Mandi in Fatehabad and Pundri in Kaithal district.