Indignant reactions poured in from the Congress and the Left Front after the enactment of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 on Thursday. The KMC Act Amendment Bill was passed in the West Bengal Assembly by a voice vote.
Introduction of the Bill was necessitated to facilitate appointment of Firhad Hakim, who is not an elected councillor, as the new KMC Mayor after the resignation of Sovan Chatterjee.
The KMC Act currently says only an elected member of the municipal council can be appointed mayor. The amendment will allow a non-councillor to be appointed mayor, with the provision that such a person has to be elected as a councillor of KMC within six months of the appointment.
The BJP, represented by lone MLA and party’s state president Dilip Ghosh, extended support to the Bill. Left Front and Congress MLAs were not present in the House as they had earlier decided to boycott the Assembly.
Reacting to passing of the KMC Act Amendment Bill, Congress Legislature Party (CLP), Manoj Chakraborty said: “The enactment of the Bill is a clear indicator that there were no incumbent among the councillors of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s 100-odd wards, chief whip.”
The Congress and Left Front MLAs had been boycotting the House since Tuesday. There was not a murmur of protest from any of the Trinamool Congress legislators affirming that the party was suffering from “the boss is always right syndrome”, the Behrampore MLA said.
“The selection of the mayoral candidate is a pointer to the fact the chief minister wants a ‘yes man’ as the first citizen of Kolkata,” said Chakraborty, who was the first minister to resign from the Cabinet after the Congress and Trinamool Congress came to power following the 2011 Assembly election.
“It is a sign of the chief minister lacking confidence in her party councillors,” CPI-M MLA Sujan Chakraborty said, adding that all procedure seemed to have been thrown to the winds.
“It seems that the social ills shown in television serials which the chief minister has even decried are visiting us in the field of politics which has snowballed to this situation,” former urban development minister and current Siliguri mayor Ashok Bhattacharya said.
He added: “Not only are personal matters of the mayor being used to cover up intra-party squabbles, there are legal loopholes in the new Act.”
Meanwhile, while addressing the House on Thursday, BJP MLA Dilip Ghosh criticised the ruling Trinamool Congress. “We support the Bill, but why are you making a non-councillor as KMC mayor at a time when you have 122 councillors in the civic body? Haven’t you found any suitable candidate for the post of mayor from among these councillors?”
Hitting back, Mamata Banerjee said: “Why did you make Mr Narendra Modi the Prime Minister while you have so many leaders like Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Mr L K Advani and Mr Arun Jaitley in your party? Similarly, why did you make Mr Amit Shah the BJP national president when there are so many others?”
She added: “All our councillors are eligible to become a mayor. But it was necessary to bring the Bill because anyone can fall seriously ill or leave,” said the CM.
“Sovan has resigned as mayor and I thank him and extend my best wishes for him,” she added.
Following directions from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to step down from the post of Kolkata mayor, incumbent Sovan Chatterjee quit from the post on Thursday. He had earlier resigned from the post of housing and fire services minister on Tuesday.