When Kirron Kher rode the Narendra Modi wave to Parliament in 2014 and won the Chandigarh Lok Sabha constituency, all eyes were on the actor-turned-politician. Will she propel City Beautiful to new heights or will she get bogged down by the challenges? Five years on as it’s time to shine the spotlight on her work, critics says that Chandigarh missed the bus on many opportunities despite a BJP government at the Centre and the party MP at home.
Kirron’s opponents say her stay in the constituency that houses her ancestral home was at best a guest appearance. They cite her shuttling between Mumbai and Chandigarh for the lack of focus.
It wasn’t a smooth sailing for the first-time MP within the BJP too. She was faced with infighting and did not get the much-needed backing from seasoned colleagues such as Satya Pal Jain, a former MP, and Sanjay Tandon, the Chandigarh BJP chief. Kher did succeed in the power struggle at times like when she managed to ensure her writ over the party to get her nominee, Davesh Moudgil, elected as the mayor in 2018. But for most occasions, she faced setbacks and drew flak from the city unit president whether it was the appointment of Chandigarh municipal corporation sub-committee members or the alleged involvement of her political adviser and Man Friday, Sahdev Salaria, in a firing incident at a local bar.
Jain, however, has kind words for Kirron. “Of all the celebrities who have attended Parliament in the past few decades, her performance has been comparatively good,” he says.
Race for ticket
Kirron is eyeing a second innings but the road ahead is bumpy. Firstly, there are many claimants for the BJP ticket, including Jain and Tandon. Her opponents in the Congress are also sensing an opportunity and vying for their party ticket. Former Union ministers Pawan Kumar Bansal and Manish Tewari are in contention, while Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur has joined the race for the Congress ticket. AAP’s Harmohan Dhawan, who is also a former MP, is already in the fray.
On the work front, she managed to keep a few promises such as getting the Centre’s nod for changes in the Union Territory’s employees’ housing scheme, which was pending since 2008. She got the approval for need-based changes in houses of the Chandigarh Housing Board and in the industrial areas only last month. Besides, the conversion of leasehold to freehold residential properties has been allowed though the high rates of conversion are discouraging.
Kirron is credited with the increase in the upper age limit for entry into government service in the UT from 18-25 to 18-37 years, the doubling of old age and disabled pensions, the enhancing of wages for Home Guard personnel, and the construction of five new sport complexes.
Since 2014, she took up 315 development works but only 113 could be completed. While work on 174 projects are under progress, 28 plans were dropped due to viability and approval delays.
The opposition leaders say that she has not done justice to her tenure. Be it traffic congestion, problems of traders, the implementation of the industrial policy or door-todoor garbage collection.
They also blamed her for not bailing out the MC from the financial mess despite having her party’s government at the Centre.
Though Kher adopted the three villages of Sarangpur, Raipur Kalan and Makhan Majra but only the first benefited. The two other villages continue to suffer for want of basic amenities.
Kirron promised a Chandigarh Service Selection Board but little was done. Promises such as the construction of a film city, a single window system and abolishing contractual labour have not been kept. She rejected the metro rail project as a means to decongest the city’s traffic. Though she got the city’s first flyover approved, the Centre’s nod for its design is awaited.
First Published: Feb 14, 2019 14:45 IST