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Kissa kursi ka

With no-confidence motion set to be brought against the mayor, speculation is rife over the future occupant of the chair

By Snehal Sengupta in Calcutta

  • Published 12.07.19, 12:24 AM
  • Updated 12.07.19, 12:24 AM
Illustration: Onkarnath Bhattacharya

As mayor Sabyasachi Dutta presided over a board of councillors meet on Wednesday many in the corporation wondered if it was his last as mayor.

A councillor present at the meeting said that various issues like water supply, road repairs, street light installation and garbage segregation were discussed at the meeting.

Although “regular” issues were discussed, the topic of private conversations among the councillors through the day was the no-confidence motion brought against mayor Dutta, another corporation source said.

Krishna Chakraborty, the chairperson of the corporation, who acts as the speaker during the meetings, said: “Whatever happens to the mayor will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the civic body. We have just eight months before the next elections. All the councillors are working hard to keep their vote banks steady at the ground level. We are here to serve the people and we will continue to serve them.”

Mayor Dutta on the other hand said that a board of councillors meet was not a party meeting.

“Only issues related to the corporation were discussed. I raised questions about the state of the roads and sought an update on the water supply in Salt Lake and Rajarhat,” Dutta told The Telegraph Salt Lake.

According to a councillor present at the meeting, Dutta also stressed on installing more streetlights and starting segregation of waste.

Deputy mayor Tapas Chatterjee said that he told the house that a second detailed project report has been prepared about road repairs.

“It was a meeting like any other councillors’ meet,” Chatterjee said.

When asked if Dutta was fit to preside over such meetings after a no-confidence motion has been brought against him, Chakraborty said that all councillors had been called at a meeting that will be held on July 18 where votes will be cast for or against his ouster.

“The decision will be taken then,” said Chakraborty.

A senior corporation officer pointed out that according to the West Bengal Municipal Corporation Act, 2006, till Dutta is removed from his post he has the authority to preside over board-of-councillors and mayor-in-council meetings.

“Only if the mayor deputes someone due to illness or bad health can the deputy mayor take over as the presiding authority at the corporation. Also, if the mayor dies then the deputy mayor may be asked to take over the reins in his absence. Since all that has not happened, the mayor is still the signing authority. He has not resigned so as per the law no one can take over his official duties. If there are people who are thinking about doing something like that then they are mistaken. The law does not permit it,” mayoral council member Devashis Jana pointed out.

Show of dissent

Poura Bhavan, the headquarters of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, was abuzz throughout the week after municipal affairs and urban development minister Firhad Hakim held a meeting with 36 councillors and directed deputy mayor Tapas Chatterjee to initiate a no-confidence motion against mayor Sabyasachi Dutta on Sunday.

The Trinamul Congress leadership clipped the wings of Dutta on charges of making “anti-party statements”. Hakim has asked Chatterjee to take care of the day-to-day running of the corporation.

Dutta’s fate will be decided in a special board meeting that has been convened on July 18 at 2pm.

Deputy mayor Tapas Chatterjee, along with several councillors including Sudhir Saha, Rajesh Chirimar and Anita Mondal, had submitted the letter containing the signatures of 35 councillors to Chakraborty, asking her to convene a special meeting where the votes will be cast.

Other than Chakraborty — who being chairperson could not have signed the petition — and Dutta himself, Trinamul has 37 councillors in the civic body. A no-confidence motion needs a simple majority to be passed.

According to Trinamul Congress sources, Dutta is hoping for cross-voting if the voting is held through secret ballot.

“The corporation act does not specify the mode of voting,” said an official.

Eyeing the hot seat

Both Tapas and Krishna are reported to be eyeing the mayor’s post.

Tapas Chatterjee, a former CPM leader, had joined the Trinamul Congress in 2015.

He was a long-standing chairman of the erstwhile Rajarhat-Gopalpur Municipality and is seen by many as an administrator who has experience of running an urban local body.

However, his Left background and the fact that corruption was rife at the Rajarhat-Gopalpur Municipality in his time do not make him acceptable among several Trinamul Congress councillors.

“Our party had been formed to oust the Left from the state. We managed to do that by fighting against them. I cannot support Chatterjee morally for the mayor’s post,” Jana, the mayoral council member in charge of solid waste management, told The Telegraph Salt Lake.

Another councillor who did not wish to be named said that Chatterjee’s name was tainted. “He owns acres of land in Rajarhat. We know how he did it. I won’t vote for him,” the councillor said.

Chakraborty, on the other hand, seems to have an edge as she was the former chairperson of the Bidhannagar Municipality when the post was as powerful as the mayor’s is in a corporation. She is close to the chief minister.

According to Trinamul Congress insiders, if the party fielded her for the mayor’s post the councillors would not be divided.

“Chakraborty seems to have an edge over Chatterjee now. She has even spoken to (the chief minister’s nephew and senior party leader) Abhishek Banerjee. We have to wait and watch,” said the party functionary.

Vacation time

Dutta however seems to be unperturbed by the happenings at the corporation and continues to shoot from the hip.

“Let the meeting happen first. Agey dekhiye hota hai kya,” he said when asked if he was worried about the vote.

He also added that he was planning to go on a family vacation to Hungary soon. He has already applied for visa at the embassy. When asked about the timing he has chosen to leave for vacation, he said: “I go on a vacation every year. I’ve been to Indonesia, Singapore, Bangkok and Europe earlier with family. We always go during this time of the year. I don’t see any reason why I should change my plans. It is a pleasure trip and I always look forward to it.”

A Trinamul Congress leader however said that the vacation was a possible ploy to buy time by Dutta and decide on a course of action for his future political career.

Inputs from Showli Chakraborty

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