Trinamool Congress minister Firhad Hakim was elected as Kolkata Mayor on Monday, securing 121 votes in the 144-member Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) during the mayoral election.
After winning the mayoral election, Hakim became the first Muslim to hold the post of Kolkata Mayor post independence. The result was announced by municipal secretary Harihar Prasad Mondal.
Despite the fact that it controls less than 4 per cent of the vote in Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the BJP chose to field a candidate in the mayoral election instead of following the Congress and CPM in boycotting it. This appears to be in line with the party’s efforts to position itself as the main opposition party in the state, if only at a symbolic level. By choosing to offer the only active resistance to Hakim’s elevation as mayor, a political observer said, the saffron party is looking beyond 2019 to the 2020 KMC elections and 2021 Assembly polls.
BJP candidate Meena Devi Purohit, who contested the polls against Hakim, bagged five votes from party councillors while 12 Left Front and two Congress councillors boycotted the election.
Last week, CPM councillor Bilquis Begum had moved Calcutta High Court challenging Hakim’s election on the ground that he was not a councillor from any ward of the civic body. The high court on Friday refused to stay the election.
The ruling TMC has 122 seats in the KMC, the Left Front 14, the BJP five, the Congress two, while one seat remains vacant. Hakim received 121 votes from the same number of TMC councillors. Only TMC councillor from ward 63 of KMC, Susmita Bhattacharya, could not participate in the secret ballot as she is undergoing treatment in Chennai.
Former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee, presently a KMC councillor, also took part in the election and cast his vote for Hakim. “I am sure the KMC will function really well under the leadership of the new mayor. He is an efficient leader and will perform better than me,” he told reporters.
Once the results were declared, KMC chairperson Mala Roy asked Hakim to take oath as the mayor . After taking the oath, Hakim asked TMC candidate Atin Ghosh to take oath as the deputy mayor.
Speaking to reporters after taking the oath, Hakim thanked Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee for the opportunity.
“I want to thank Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and all the councillors for believing in me and electing me to this post. I will also try to dignify this chair, which was previously held by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Bidhan Chandra Roy and others. It is matter of great respect for me to sit in this chair. I should be recognised for the work I do and not because of my religion. Our party believes in being humane to all and we do not believe in majority or minority,” said Hakim, who is also the state urban development and municipal affairs minister.
He also criticised the BJP for fielding a candidate despite not having the required strength in the KMC. “The BJP had said that it will be their moral victory if they get even one vote from TMC. Today, all TMC councillors present in the House voted in favour of me. Therefore, it is a moral defeat for the BJP for not being able to win one vote from TMC,” said Hakim.
The new Kolkata Mayor said providing adequate water supply to Tollygunge and Jadavpur and solving waterlogging issues in Behala and central Kolkata will be his priorities for now.
‘Making sure there is an Opposition’
BJP candidate and KMC councillor Meena Devi Purohit responded to Hakim’s remarks, saying, “It is not about having five or 10 councillors. It is about making sure there is an Opposition in the KMC.”
Congress councillor Prakash Upadhayay said, “We could not vote either for TMC or BJP. Therefore, we decided to boycott the election.”
Election for the post of Kolkata Mayor was necessitated after former mayor Sovan Chatterjee resigned, allegedly on Mamata’s instructions. Chatterjee had also stepped down as the state housing and fire and emergency services minister.