THE general body meeting of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) on Saturday proved stormy as expected with Municipal Commissioner Tukaram Mundhe waking out in the middle of a discussion on a question raised by a Congress corporator accusing the latter of resorting to personal attack.
The meeting had become controversial after Mundhe had initially allowed it and later “withdrawn permission”. It was subsequently allowed by the state government after Mundhe had sought its opinion. Accordingly, the meeting began on Saturday with question hour.
Congress corporator Harish Gwalbanshi raised the issue of “change of reservation” of an NMC land in K T Nagar locality without the “requisite presentation” of the general body. While Mundhe was answering the question, senior BJP corporator Dayashankar Tiwari raised a “point of information”. Mundhe told him that he should not be interrupted and allowed to complete the answer. Mayor Sandip Joshi of the BJP sitting next to Mundhe told him that Tiwari had the right to raise a point of information and hence be allowed to speak. Tiwari then continued but Mundhe objected, asking him not to speak to him in “raised voice”.
After the bitter exchange, Gwalbanshi rose to make his point on the issue questioning the change of reservation. But he subsequently made some personal comments saying he doesn’t conduct himself a bit like Tukaram, a revered Maharashtrian saint from King Shivaji’s time. He went on to say, “There was one saint Tukaram and there is Tukaram Mundhe”. This enraged Mundhe, who left the auditorium without transacting further business.
Later taking to The Indian Express, Mundhe said, “Commissioner is an institution. I am a public servant, not the servant of the corporators. Nobody should speak to me in raised voice. And if somebody makes personal comments, it can’t be acceptable to me.”
Asked about the contentious issue under discussion, Mundhe said, “A hospital can be constructed without any change in reservation. I have done precisely that. There is no violation of any rules.” Mundhe also accused Mayor Joshi of not reining in the two corporators.
Joshi said, “Tiwari had a point of information, which he had right to raise in the middle of the answer by Mundhe. That’s usual practice even in Legislatures. I tried to tell this to Mundhe but he wasn’t ready to allow Tiwari to speak.”
“As regards Gwalbanshi’s personal remark, it came towards the end of discussion and Mundhe left in a huff without giving me scope to do anything. Later, I called him on phone and tried to calm him down and requested him to rejoin the House but he refused to come saying he was insulted by the members,” Joshi added.
About the issue, Joshi said, “There is no doubt that there is violation of rules in change of reservation. His own Town Planning Officer also said so during the discussion. It’s on record. We have video recorded the entire proceedings. So, nothing is left to doubts.”
Mundhe has been in conflict with the corpoators cutting across party lines in the BJP-ruled NMC since beginning on several issues like NMC budget, developmental work priorities and, of late, his handling of the corona crisis. Corporators have been accusing Mundhe of “dictatorial” approach, a charge Mundhe vehemently refuted in a Facebook interview recently. He maintains all his actions have been in public interest and by following laws and rules, which, he says, is being “misconstrued” as dictatorial attitude.
Mundhe has also been citing vital corona indicators of Nagpur, which are better than national and state averages, to buttress his claims. His lodging an FIR against Congress corporator Nitin Sathavne for allegedly “obstructing” NMC’s mass quarantining procedure in city’s Mominpura locality last month had evoked sharp reactions from the elected representatives with some senior Congress leaders reportedly approaching Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray seeking his transfer.
Meanwhile, Joshi has called the general body meeting again on Tuesday. “I have once again invited Mundhe for it,” Joshi said.
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