A woman municipal councillor elected on a BJP ticket from Sidhpur in Patan district is confronting charges similar to the one faced by Surendranagar BJP parliamentarian Somabhai Patel.
Incidentally,Patel was exonerated by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee from disqualification as the BJP failed to furnish adequate evidence to prove that he voted against the party whip during a trust vote. But the Sidhpur councillor has been disqualified from municipality’s membership by the state government.
The councillor,Kaminiben Sanatkumar Padhya,has now moved the Gujarat High Court challenging her disqualification under the provisions of the Gujarat State Local Bodies Anti-Defection Law,1986 for violating the party whip.
Directing the government not to fill the vacancy created due to her disqualification,Justice K M Thakar on Friday made it clear that the petitioner was at liberty to approach the HC in case the municipality went ahead with conducting any proceedings of the municipality. The court fixed January 13 as the next date of hearing.
According to the case details, the BJP won 24 of the 36 seats in the December 2005 elections for the Sidhpur municipality. As the post of Sidhpur municipality president is reserved for a woman,BJP councillor Sushilaben Patel was appointed as the president. The trouble began when Patel’s term came to an end after two and a half years in May 2008,necessitating the election of a new president.
The development led to a polarisation among the BJP councillors,with Kaminiben forming a separate group Sidhpur Vikas Manch of eight councillors in the municipality while still staying in the BJP.
With the support of councillors from her group,she contested for the president’s post.
The BJP,meanwhile,issued a whip asking councillors elected on its symbol to vote in favour of the party’s official nominee. Kaminiben,however,remained in the fray and got elected with the support of 12 Congress councillors and those from her group in a house of 36.
On December 26,she was issued a notice by A S Patel,officer-designate for implementation of anti-defection law in local bodies,disqualifying her from municipality’s membership on grounds of breach of whip and provisions of the Anti-Defection Law. The action was taken following complaints from local BJP representative Manish Acharya.
Kaminiben and councillors of her group moved the High Court on January 2,seeking quashing of the orders pertaining to her disqualification. Her advocate Prakash Jani challenged the disqualification on her behalf.
Advocate Tushar Mehta,representing yjr respondent,however,made a strong plea that Kaminiben’s action amounted to violating the party whip under amended Rule 10 of the Anti Defection Law,hence,she was liable to be disqualified.