Siliguri, March 13: The Congress mayor of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation today removed all members mayor-in-council and the deputy mayor after Trinamul declared the victory of Nantu Paul for the chairperson’s poll though the election happened without quorum.
The deputy mayor and four of the MMICs were from Trinamul. The Congress mayor axed them after her party did not take part in the voting. She later said the election was unconstitutional as the meeting to conduct the voting was without quorum that requires the presence of one-third members.
The Left, which has 17 members, abstained as it had said earlier. Of the total 47 SMC seats, Trinamul holds 15, the Congress 14. One seat is empty. For quorum, the meeting required 16 members. Trinamul fell short by one.
The Congress had fielded Sabita Devi Agarwal for the post of chairperson.
Around 1pm, Trinamul councillor Arindam Mitra, who was entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the polls, convened the meeting for voting. Only the Trinamul councillors were present and the poll was carried out by secret ballot. Within 40 minutes, Mitra announced Paul the winner and he was sworn in by the additional district magistrate of Siliguri, Tapan Burman.
Paul, who switched from the Congress to Trinamul, was removed from the chairman’s post on February 14 through a no-confidence motion moved by the Left and supported by the Congress.
The Congress today said Paul’s election was “unconstitutional” as the board meeting to choose him didn’t have quorum. “A civic meeting can be held only if one-third councillors are present. As the Congress and Left members were absent, there was no quorum at today’s meeting. Trinamul took the state government’s help to elect Paul,” said Darjeeling district Congress president Shankar Malakar.
But Trinamul minister and a councillor at the SMC, Gautam Deb, sought to refute the Congress’s charge that the poll was invalid. “There was no meeting and it was just voting. In the case of an election, there is no need for quorum and it is not mandatory that all councillors have to vote.”
Asked why the Congress had not taken part in the voting, Malakar said: “We boycotted the voting as Paul was a candidate. He had switched to Trinamul and awaits action under the anti-defection law. Another thing is that when we fielded Sabita Devi Agarwal, we sought Trinamul’s support according to an understanding reached between the two parties during the formation of the alliance. But Trinamul didn’t reply. To protest against Trinamul’s high-handedness, the Congress has taken a decision that will be announced by the mayor soon.”
The “decision” was announced by mayor Gangotri Dutta around 3pm. She took around 45 minutes to prepare an order and formally issue it.
“According to the powers vested upon me by the West Bengal Municipal Corporation Act 2006, I do hereby remove responsibility of deputy mayor and members-mayor–in-council of the SMC with immediate effect,” she said.
“We will shortly fill up the seven vacant posts. The Congress will decide whether the alliance with Trinamul should be continued. All the departments will continue to function and civic services won’t be hit,” said Dutta.
With the removal of the MMICs, all portfolios are with the mayor now.
Asked why the Congress’s MMICs had also been removed, a party insider said: “We are aware that Congress needs at least two-three more councillors for the one-third mark to convene a meeting. There are chances that some Trinamul councillors might join us and that is why we have kept all the posts vacant.”