The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 30 , 2013
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Three more in mayor’s team

- Opposition sees attempt to reward Trinamul councillors

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation will get three more mayoral council members in keeping with the Trinamul dispensation’s tendency to create administrative posts for elected representatives from the party.

Once the trio take oath on Wednesday, the number of mayoral council members will go up to 12, the highest in at least three decades. The count had dropped to nine following the resignation of Shashi Panja, who has since been sworn in as parliamentary secretary to the state government.

Of the new council members, Mitali Banerjee will look after education, Sushanta Ghosh roads and engineering, and Swapan Samaddar bustee.

“A large area in Joka has merged with the civic body. Our work pressure has increased and we need more mayoral council members,” mayor Sovan Chatterjee said. The 18.5sq km that has been added to the CMC has three wards.

Civic officials and Opposition leaders, however, picked holes in the mayor’s claim, attributing the move to Trinamul’s propensity to reward elected representatives from the party with plum administrative posts.

“A mayoral council member gets a car, an office space in the civic headquarters, a personal assistant and two peons. The reimbursement for cell phone and residential landline bills is much higher than what an ordinary councillor gets,” said an official.

The post also carries an aura of power. A councillor has to visit a chief engineer’s room to talk about any issue related to his/her ward. But the municipal commissioner (executive head of the civic body) has to come to the chamber of a mayoral council member for official work.

“If the civic body needs two mayoral council members for three wards, the entire city needs much more than 12 such functionaries. The move is aimed at showering benefits on Trinamul councillors,” said Rupa Bagchi of the CPM, who is also Opposition leader in the CMC.

The decision to induct more mayoral council members was announced a day after the governor gave his assent to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2012, which raises the cap on the number of such officer-bearers from 10 to 12.

Many saw a parallel between the civic body’s move and two recent decisions of the Mamata Banerjee government — appointing seven of its MPs who were ministers at the Centre as advisors to various state departments and inducting 13 of its MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.