March 21, 2021 4:04:38 am
In a move to ensure a “level-playing field” for all parties in the Assembly polls, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday used its constitutional powers and restrained political appointees serving as board administrators of West Bengal municipal corporations, whose term has ended, from discharging their functions until the model code of conduct is in force.
The Commission directed state Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay and other top officials to choose government officials for the job until then.
The poll panel passed the order by using its plenary powers under Article 324.
On why the decision was taken, the Commission stated in its order, “In order to avoid a situation where critical functions of urban local bodies are actually discharged and thereby affecting level playing field during the operation of Model Code of Conduct or has potential of and/or may give rise to a legitimate apprehension in the mind of the voters about fairness and impartiality of the election process…”
Out of 41 board administrators named in the ECI order, 35 are from TMC, five from CPI(M), one from the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP). The TMC appointees include KMC chairperson and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim, who is contesting from Kolkata Port Assembly segment.
Of total 135 urban local bodies, the term of 125 ended in April-May 2020. Following this, the state government appointed former chairpersons or mayors as administrators or head of the board of administrators. Most appointees are from the Trinamool Congress and are contesting the polls.
Citing a Calcutta High Court order on the delay in holding local body elections, the ECI said the state government could have named people with no political affiliations or given representation to all parties on these boards.
Earlier this month, a BJP delegation had submitted a complaint to the ECI, urging the poll panel to remove “political appointees” from various boards of administrators in civic bodies appointed by the state government.