Even as the State Election Commission (SEC) has fixed December 19 as the date for holding the elections to the Howrah Municipal Corporation, there is now uncertainity over the holding of the polls with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Wednesday returning the Bill for excluding areas of erstwhile Bally municipality from Howrah Municipal Corporation to the state government for reconsideration. The Governor observed that the authorities have acted in an “arbitrary, unfair and non-judicious manner”.
Seven years ago, after the Trinamool Congress government decided to merge 16 wards of Bally municipality with the Howrah Municipal Corporation, the state Cabinet recently took a decision to constitute a new municipality covering 16 wards of erstwhile Bally Municipality.
The Bill to this effect was tabled and passed in the Assembly before being sent to the Governor for his signature.
However, the Governor took to Twitter on Wednesday giving his reasons for not putting his signature on the Bill.
“I am constrained to observe that on quintessentially jurisdictional aspect in respect of consideration of the objections by the State Government under section 219 of the (Howrah Municipal Corporation Act, 1980) Act, the authorities have acted in an arbitrary, unfair and non-judicious manner,” the Governor said in a four-page note to the Mamata Banerjee government.
No details of any consideration by the state government had emanated either from the order or otherwise, Dhankar said and sought several documents for consideration of The Howrah Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2021, relating to proceedings of hearing and adjudication of objections.
Holding that objections are to be considered by the state government, he asked on what premise or authority objections came to be considered by the Howrah Sadar SDO or the district magistrate of Howrah.
The Governor asked for full record of consideration of the objections by the state government and proceedings and full details of objections and their disposal in relation to The Howrah Municipal Corporation (Second Amendment) Act, 2015.
He also sought the Assembly proceedings with respect to the Bill that finally led to The Howrah Municipal Corporation (Second Amendment) Act, 2015.
While the Governor cited 18 reasons for returning the Bill to the government, Cabinet minister Firhad Hakim slammed the Governor’s decision saying, “He isn’t aware of the rules. He has to sign the Bill.”
The government, during its talks with the State Election Commission, had proposed to hold the civic polls in Kolkata and Howrah on December 19. While the state is prepared to hold the polls on the said date, the Governor’s refusal to sign the Bill could complicate things.
Until the Bill is notified, it will be impossible to conduct the civic polls in Howrah as the Election Commission needs at least 24 days between the scheduled polling day and the date of notification to make all the necessary preparations. If the SEC has to hold the Howrah polls on December 19, it must notify the election by next Friday.
However, with the Governor unwilling to put his signature on the Bill, it doesn’t look likely that the Howrah polls would be held on the scheduled date, sources in the state poll panel said.
However, the Commission sources added that the KMC poll, which is to be held along with Howrah civic polls, could be notified on Thursday.
HC to hear BJP plea on Civic polls on Nov 29
The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday said it will hear on November 29 a petition by the BJP seeking direction to the West Bengal government and the State Election Commission (SEC) to hold municipal polls in the state in one phase.
BJP’s lawyer prayed before the court for an urgent hearing on the matter claiming that the state government is mulling holding of elections to municipal corporations of Kolkata and Howrah.
Lawyers of the state government also prayed that hearing of the matter is held as early as possible.
(Inputs from PTI)