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Battle for Chandigarh: Tewari Vs. Tandon As Lok Sabha Elections Heat Up

In a highly anticipated return to his hometown, two-time MP and former Union minister Manish Tewari, 58, is seeking to reclaim political ground in the city where he first learned the ropes of politics. Tewari's bid for the Chandigarh seat marks his first campaign in the city since the 2009 elections. Despite his roots, the […]

In a highly anticipated return to his hometown, two-time MP and former Union minister Manish Tewari, 58, is seeking to reclaim political ground in the city where he first learned the ropes of politics. Tewari's bid for the Chandigarh seat marks his first campaign in the city since the 2009 elections. Despite his roots, the Congress has historically favored Pawan Kumar Bansal, who dominated the political landscape from 1991, securing four wins out of eight contests.

Bansal's consecutive victories in 1999, 2004, and 2009 were overshadowed by significant defeats to BJP's Kirron Kher in the last two Lok Sabha polls. Kher, an actress-turned-politician who also grew up in Chandigarh, triumphed amid rising BJP support.

On the BJP front, 60-year-old Sanjay Tandon's long wait for a nomination has been fraught with challenges. Despite being a strong contender in 2014, the party chose Kher, leading to internal discord. Nonetheless, Tandon, then the Chandigarh BJP state president, supported the decision, and Kher secured victories in 2014 and 2019. However, Kher's recent health issues and rising anti-incumbency sentiments prompted the BJP to place their faith in Tandon for this election.

Personalities at the Forefront

The Chandigarh campaign reflects the personalities and backgrounds of the candidates as much as it does overarching political narratives. Tewari, the son of esteemed educationist and poet V. N. Tewari, has deep Congress roots, having risen through the ranks from the National Students Union of India to the Indian Youth Congress.

Conversely, Tandon's BJP and Sangh Parivar connections run deep. His father, Balram Das Tandon, was an RSS pracharak and a founding member of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh. Sanjay Tandon's political career began in earnest in 1991, and despite being overlooked for the Chandigarh ticket previously, he continued to build grassroots support and relationships within the party and the city.

Kher’s tenure has been marred by accusations of inaccessibility and strained relations with the Chandigarh administration. As a result, many party workers and residents have turned to Tandon, who has positioned himself as a crucial link between the public and the administration. Branding Tewari as an “outsider” and a “bhagora” (runaway) due to his frequent constituency changes, Tandon has leveraged his local connections to gain support.

Alliance Shifts and Electoral Dynamics

This election sees Congress in a new alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a significant shift as AAP previously dented Congress's vote share by 24% in 2014. Meanwhile, the BJP's long-time ally, Shiromani Akali Dal, has parted ways. The Akalis’ candidate, Hardeep Singh, withdrew and joined AAP, which performed strongly in the 2021 municipal corporation elections, becoming the single largest party.

Key Issues and Voter Base

With nearly half of Chandigarh’s 6.6 lakh voters residing in rehabilitation colonies and villages, these areas are pivotal. Migrants from Bihar and UP, who form a significant portion of these voters, prioritize issues like infrastructure development, construction regularization, and ownership rights. Both candidates have aligned their campaigns to address these concerns.

As the campaign intensifies, the contrasting approaches and extensive efforts of both Tewari and Tandon will be crucial in swaying voters. The outcome will reveal whether the extensive ground covered by the BJP will translate into votes or if the Congress-AAP alliance can secure a comeback.

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