|Hemant Soren (top) and Chandra Shekhar Dubey
Ranchi is doing without a mayor for the past nine months
A number of elected civic representatives, after being removed via no-trust motion, are waiting to be heard
Panchayat polls will take place next year
There are at least three immediate reasons as to why Jharkhand needs a full-fledged functioning election commission, which has all but ceased to exist with the retirement of its head around six months ago.
While the powers that be seem to be well aware of the situation, an apparent fight of favouritism being played out between two crucial stakeholders responsible for selection of the new state election commissioner is denying Ranchi a chance to get its mayor.
The post of the election commissioner fell vacant after the term of S.D. Sharma ended on July 15, last year. In the absence of a replacement, the poll panel has been rendered virtually defunct.
Panchayati raj minister Chandra Shekhar Dubey, who is authorised to nominate names for the key post, put the ball in the court of the chief minister’s office (CMO), which is supposed to clear the names proposed.
According to Dubey, he forwarded names not once, but twice. While the CMO shot down the first proposal, it is yet to respond on the second name amid reports that chief minister Hemant Soren actually has somebody else in his mind for the job.
“Two-and-a-half-months ago, I sent the name of retired chief secretary S.K. Choudhary. I learnt that the chief minister did not approve it due to reasons best known to him. I withdrew the name later,” Dubey, a senior Congress leader, told The Telegraph.
Sources added that Dubey later recommended the name of former development commissioner A.K. Sarkar for the post, but the CMO is yet to reply to it.
“Mujhe nahi pata ki CM ke dimag me kya chal raha hai. Pata nahi woh kis ko lana chahte hain (I don’t know what’s going on in the chief minister’s head. Don’t know whom does he want,” a visibly irritated Dubey added.
According to high-level sources, the chief minister and his party want former DGP Neyaz Ahmed to be the next state election commissioner.
But Ahmed’s candidature is likely to be rejected at first glance as rules say that only a retired or serving IAS officer of chief secretary rank can hold the post.
Officials at the CMO remained tight-lipped on the stand-off and only said that Dubey was expected to meet Hemant on Monday to discuss the issue.
“The election commission is a single-man outfit (vested with constitutional and quasi-judicial power) authorised to hold elections. RMC mayoral election is pending because of this reason and we are not sure when and how the election will take place. The moment an appointment is made, the commission will act fast to conduct elections,” said a senior official.
A source said that the chief minister could withhold the process of appointment and may return the name with some queries, but technically, he can’t override the recommendations made by the minister. Hemant, however, could not be contacted for comments.
A day ahead of the mayoral polls in Ranchi on April 6, 2013, police and income tax officials seized around Rs 20 lakh from a city-based hotel. The money was allegedly meant to be distributed to influence voting in favour of Khalkho, who was being supported by Congress.
Although the election commission went ahead with the polls, it was countermanded. Police lodged an FIR against Khalkho, Congress leader Niranjan Sharma and his employee Sudhir Sahu.
Khalkho played catch-me-if-you-can for 56 days before surrendering on June 4. She was granted bail by Jharkhand High Court last November.
Other important works also have been affected in the absence of the election commissioner. No groundwork has been done for the panchayat polls that is to be held next year.
Insiders further said that as the poll panel functioned as an appellant body, dozens of complaints related to the civic body polls are also pending with it. Several elected representatives, who had been removed through “no-trust motion” and are seeking redressal, are also waiting to be heard by the commission.
Do you think the mayoral polls will be held in Ranchi anytime in the future?