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Kejriwal loyalist wins recall vote

Ashok Jain

Jaipur, Dec. 14: A municipal corporation chairman in Rajasthan who was removed by a no-confidence motion in January this year was re-elected today after demanding a right to recall vote, the first in the state.

Ashok Jain, who has won back the post of chairman in Mangrol municipality over 200km from Jaipur with double the majority he got the first time, is a member of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party.

“I am an honest man. Because of the nexus of Congress and BJP corporators I have been dragged into the poll to Right to Recall,” said Jain, 61, who was first elected in 2009 as an Independent and is widely seen as honest.

He went to court in January, days after he got the notice for the no-trust motion, to demand the recall vote.

In the election held on Wednesday, 65.71 per cent of the total 16,735 voters — 11,129 — exercised their franchise. Jain, a farmer and a government contractor, won by 3,488 votes.

An 80-member team of the Aam Aadmi Party, which Jain joined on November 24 — the day the party’s name was announced — had campaigned for him. After the win today, Kejriwal who has been campaigning for the right to recall legislators spoke to Jain twice to congratulate him.

In January, 17 out of the 20 elected members of the municipality board in Mangrol had voted against him in a no-confidence motion. Of them, 10 were from the Congress, five from the BJP and one an Independent.

Jain argued in court that since he had been elected directly by the people, he should be allowed a right to recall vote. In a ruling in September, the high court asked the government to ensure the vote was held by December 15.

The Rajasthan Municipality Act had been amended in March 2011 to include the right to recall — Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh also have the provision — but the notification was issued only in September this year.

Recall is possible through a secret ballot if more than half the total number of voters present in the municipal area favour it. To initiate recall, a proposal signed by no less than three-fourths of the total elected members has to be submitted to the district collector, who convenes a meeting of the civic body in a fortnight. If a resolution expressing no confidence is passed at the meeting with three-fourths majority, it is communicated to the state government, which informs the state Election Commission.

A recall vote is not possible before the incumbent has completed two years in office. It can be initiated only once during the person’s term.

Jain believes he was hounded because he cracked down on corruption in the municipality, warning staff not to accept any bribe or even a cup of tea.

Mangrol resident Bhawan Singh corroborated this: “We did not need to bribe anybody to get our work done or file passed in the municipality.”

Jain said: “The corrupt politicians were fed up because I stopped bribery completely and so I was accused of threatening and pressuring officers, of jeopardising the clean-up and infrastructure drive of the area and also of spreading communal tension.

“I really feel blessed that the people have understood who is corrupt and who is not and realised whom to throw out.”