The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rule revision to rein in civic defectors

Calcutta, Aug. 5: After securing the Assembly’s nod to an amendment bill that empowers the state to impose a code of conduct on councillors of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, the government is mulling a move to discipline civic representatives across Bengal.

The move is aimed at making the elected representatives to the civic bodies more accountable and preventing them from switching sides. A councillor may face dismissal for cross-voting, if the government gives effect to its plan.

Several municipalities had to undergo change of political control in recent times because of cross-voting and defections. Bansberia, Chinsurah, Champdani, Konnagar and Rishra municipalities in Hooghly and Suri and Ilambazar in Birbhum were among the civic bodies that witnessed a change of guard.

All the major parties — the CPM, the Trinamul Congress and the Congress — gained in some places and suffered in the rest because of the councillors’ switch-overs.

According to the proposed amendments to the municipal rules, a councillor will be dismissed for defecting or quitting a party. An elected member will also face the axe if expelled by the party for disobeying its whip. If a councillor elected as an Independent joins a political party, the person will be dismissed.

However, no action can be taken if a group of councillors belonging to a political party joins another party or forms a new one with a strength of at least a third of the total elected councillors of that particular party.

According to the new rules, parties will have to submit their constitution or set of rules and regulations to the municipal commissioner. The parties in the Opposition will have to choose their leaders and a resolution will have to be passed within a month of the formation of the board and its copy submitted to the commissioner.

Like in the Calcutta corporation, the chief executive officers of the municipalities will be designated commissioners.

“A councillor elected from a political party must be disciplined and not go beyond the party’s diktat. Each municipal board is formed through a democratic process. A single councillor by means of cross-voting can topple the board. An elected representative can also affect a municipality’s functioning by deserting one party for another. All this must be stopped for the sake of democracy,’’ said municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya.

He said the government has already amended the existing corporation rules to run the civic bodies “transparently, effectively and democratically”.

No court shall have any jurisdiction in respect of any dispute arising out of a councillor being disqualified.

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