A DAY after the local bodies department issued a show-cause notice to Mohali Mayor Kulwant Singh, the Municipal Corporation (MC) House on Friday passed a resolution of condemnation against Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and termed the government’s decision as “interference” in MC’s work. Differences were also seen in SAD as some of its councillors remained absent while one councillor opposed the resolution. The councillors described the department’s move as an “insult” to the House.
Kulwant chaired the House meeting. SAD Councillor Paramjeet Singh Kahlon raised the issue of Thursday’s goof-up when the local bodies department first issued a press release about Kulwant’s suspension and then withdrew it and issued a statement saying the mayor had been issued a show-cause notice. It was alleged that Kulwant had purchased a pruning machine at an exorbitant price.
Kahlon said the government had been exposed and it was now clear that the latter wanted to remove an elected person forcefully and that should be condemned. He added that the government should wait till the completion of the inquiry, which was being conducted by the chief vigilance officer of the local bodies department.
“It is low-level politics. Navjot Sidhu has no right to oppose the purchase of the pruning machine. We know that everything was done by following due procedure,” asserted Kahlon, who was supported by Kulwant’s confidant R P Sharma, who said the House should pass a condemnation resolution against the minister, adding that since the resolution to purchase the pruning machine was passed by the House, the minister had no right to question that until the completion of inquiry.
Deputy Mayor Manjeet Singh Sethi said the government wanted to derail development, adding that if Navjot Singh Sidhu was serious about eradicating corruption, he should first take action against former commissioner Uma Shankar Gupta who had not paid the rent of his official residence.
Kulwant said the inquiry was being conducted by a private person and how could that person raise questions over the resolution passed by the House. He informed the House that the actual cost of the pruning machine was Rs 88 lakh and and the rest would be spent on accessories, including a tractor. Claiming that it was a one-of-its-kind machine in the country, the mayor also said that everything had been done with the approval of the House.
“The resolution was passed by the elected members. Now, the government accepted the report of a private person. So, it is clear what the intentions are,” said Kulwant. The mayor further stated that he was also considering legal options against the person, who had issued the press release about his suspension as it was a clear case of defamation.
The local bodies department had alleged that the pruning machine was bought for Rs 1.79 crore while the Indian-made machine could have been bought for Rs 28 lakh.
All the 14 Congress councillors, however, did not approve the condemnation resolution against Sidhu. SAD Councillor Bharat Bhushan Maini, too, opposed the resolution. SAD councillors Sukhdev Singh Patwari, Kuldeep Kaur Kang, a bitter opponent of the mayor, and Harmanpreet Singh Prince, remained absent from the meeting.