The West Bengal government was mulling an amendment in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation Act, 1980 to facilitate the appointment of a city mayor, a day after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Sovan Chatterjee to step down from the post, an official said Wednesday.
Chatterjee, who was the housing and fire services minister, resigned from the cabinet Tuesday evening. Soon after, the chief minister sought his resignation from the post of mayor. State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim has been given the additional charge of the two portfolios held by Chatterjee.
According to a highly-placed official at the state administration, the current law allowed only elected candidates or councillors to occupy the post of the city mayor. “We are planning to emulate the law followed during the Assembly and general election. According to the proposed amendment, a person who is not an elected candidate or a councillor can be made the mayor, but he will have to win the civic polls to continue in the post,” the official told PTI.
He added that an amendment in the civic law was likely in the ongoing winter session of the Assembly. “Possibly, there will be a discussion on the issue in the Assembly Thursday,” the official said. The chief minister had hinted Tuesday that the government would have to look at the options for appointing a new mayor, given the fact that the law only allowed an elected councillor to take charge of the post.
According to Nabanna (secretariat) insiders, the chief minister was trying to bring in an “efficient administrator” for the post of the city mayor. “The focus is on bringing in a person who has a detailed knowledge of municipal affairs as well as administration. This will enable him to run the KMC smoothly,” the official said.
An emergency meeting was held late Tuesday night to discuss the next course of action, following Chatterjee’s resignation from the ministry. According to section 38 of the KMC Act, the deputy mayor is supposed to look after the responsibilities of the mayor in case of a vacancy.
“In the event of the occurrence of any vacancy in the office of the Mayor by reason of his death, the Deputy Mayor shall act as Mayor until the date on which a new Mayor elected in accordance with the provisions of this Act to fill such vacancy enters upon his office,” it said.
In such circumstances too, the person being appointed as the new mayor would have to win the polls within a month’s time, it stated. KMC Deputy Mayor Iqbal Ahmed has been ill for quite some time now and it is unlikely that he will take charge of the vacant post.
In the meantime, the chief minister has asked Municipal Commissioner Khalil Ahmed to look after the operations of the corporation. The distance between Banerjee and Chatterjee, who was once considered a trusted aide of the chief minister, started growing after reports of problems in his conjugal life surfaced.
There were also allegations that Chatterjee was not taking his responsibilities seriously, either as a mayor or as a minister.