The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) found its back to the wall as its own corporator protested against what he called “bureaucratic rule” and opposition Congress taunted the ruling party over this at a meeting of general board of Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) on Wednesday.
As the bimonthly meeting of the general board of RMC began, Rajendrasinh Jhala, former chairman of standing committee of the civic body and BJP corporator from Ward number 2, stood up and requested mayor Raksha Boliya to take up his questions on priority basis. Jhala wanted to know about the number of outlets selling non-vegetarian food in the city and details of action taken by RMC against illegal outlets. He had also sought to know about status of roads and drains in his election ward. He had submitted his question but it was assigned serial number six in the draw of lots.
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However, the mayor turned Jhala’s request down as Opposition members, whose questions were at the top of the list, raised objections. As Jhala said he would not sit down until he was given time to ask his questions, Leader of Opposition Gayatriba Vaghela demanded the duration of question hour be extended from the routine one hour to two hours. But the mayor disagreed. Irked, Congress corporators stood up from their seats and shouted to allow them to ask questions in the interest of the public.
The opposition benches continued the din despite repeated requests from mayor to sit down. As the din continued, the mayor, in his capacity as the presiding officer of the meeting, switched off microphones of all the members and read out from the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act 1948 about the conduct of business at general board meetings. But commotion continued even after this. The Congress corporators were pacified only after mayor reminded them that the pandemonium was eating into the regular time for question hour.
However, the proceedings were disrupted one more time when municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra, who was replying to a question from a Congress corporator, was interrupted by Jhala. The BJP corporator alleged that the municipal commissioner had decided not to listen to elected leaders in solving problems of the public and thereby making it difficult for corporators to face them. At this juncture, Congress corporator Karshan Sagathiya and Atul Rajani seized the opportunity and attacked the BJP, taunting that corporator of the ruling party was speaking out against the functioning of the civic body.
As Jhala continued to stand up through the meeting, Sagathiya and Vaghela twice tried to pacify him and requested him to sit down. But the BJP corporator hit back saying he did not require their sympathy.
After the meeting, mayor said she was in a fix over Jhala’s request. “If his question was of nature requiring urgent attention, I would have prioritised it cent per cent. But it was not. Moreover, the Opposition had its question on the top of the list. Had I allowed Jhala to speak ahead of Congress corporators, the latter would have accused me of not allowing the Opposition to speak,” Boliya told The Indian Express.
The mayor further said that Jhala should have raised his questions at party fora before taking them to the general board meeting. However, while speaking to media persons after the meeting, Jhala alleged that the commissioner was acting in an autocratic way and that his party was allowing it. “After today’s meeting, I feel democracy is being compromised in RMC. There is bureaucratic rule in the civic body and my fellow party-men are just playing along,” he said.
However, Bhikha Vasoya, president of Rajkot city unit of BJP, said Jhala’s behaviour at general board meet amounted to indiscipline and that he would take action against the senior corporator after seeking guidance from Gujarat BJP chief.
The incident comes with months before the civic body goes to polls.