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Election? Call it ejection

Raipur, June 17: Bharti Sonkar was the only candidate in this poll, which is why she was so afraid of losing.

Losing not just an election but her job as president of the nagar panchayat in Gunderdehi, 80km from here.

To Chhattisgarh’s small-town corporators, one-candidate polls don’t always mean an uncontested victory. The state’s Nagar Palika Act gives citizens the right to recall any nagar panchayat president, or corporator, through a vote if they are unhappy with his or her performance.

Three towns exercised their “people’s power” yesterday, and when the counting was done today, all three presidents found themselves out of office. It’s probably the first time elected popular representatives have been recalled in India.

Bharti had campaigned as hard as two years ago when she was elected, but polled just 1,389 votes in her favour and 1,977 against. The ballot carried just two symbols — an empty chair for a “no” (recall) vote and an occupied chair for a “yes”.

The law, however, clamps certain restrictions. One, a president cannot be recalled within two years of assuming office. Two, it’s not all direct democracy: a recall vote can be held only if three-fourths of the corporators inform the collector in writing that the president has lost their confidence.

A precedent was set two years ago when the corporators of Mahasamund sought recall of their president Vimal Chopra. Chopra moved court and the verdict is awaited. Bharti, however, wasn’t so lucky. After the high court ruled against her, she had moved the Supreme Court, where she lost her appeal on May 13.

Another woman nagar panchayat chief, Khoren Khalko of Rajpur in Sarguja district, was recalled today. Both she and Bharti are associated with the Congress.

In the Nawagarh nagar panchayat, Independent Sitaram received 865 votes in his favour but the 1,146 “no” votes sealed his fate.

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