Even as all political parties, except the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), joined hands to pass a no-confidence motion against Navi Mumbai civic chief Tukaram Mundhe on Tuesday, the decision is unlikely to hold at the state-government level.
The state urban development department, headed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, may suspend or rescind the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s (NMMC) decision using its special powers under the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act, sources close to the chief minister said.
“We will take the decision on merit,”Fadnavis told a group of journalists on Tuesday.
A senior state government official said, “We think the municipal commissioner’s work is on the right track. He has given us enough evidence of there being a clutch of properties where no tax has been levied for years, and of irregularities in housekeeping contracts and other basic tenders.”
Elected representatives from the ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and opposition Shiv Sena and Congress united to pass a resolution urging the state government to recall Mundhe. In the elected house of 111, as many as 104 corporators voted in favour of the resolution, while six BJP members voted against it. One NCP corporator was absent. The political parties now expect Fadnavis to transfer Mundhe, who has cracked down on corruption in the satellite city. Sources in the Mantralaya said Fadnavis is unlikely to budge under pressure. Significantly, it was Fadnavis who had handpicked Mundhe — known as an upright officer — for the job of civic chief in Navi Mumbai. The state government usually appoints IAS officers as commissioners of municipal corporations governing major cities.
According to Section 451 of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act, the state government has the power to suspend the execution of a resolution in several circumstances. It can suspend a resolution if it is in contravention or in excess of the corporation’s powers, is likely to breach peace or cause annoyance to the public, is against financial interest of the corporation or even against larger public interest with a justification for the same.
“In the state’s eyes, Mundhe is doing everything that a municipal commissioner is expected to do, and even citizens seem to be in his favour,” the government official said.
Mundhe’s work in the corporation, especially regarding illegal construction and corruption in the civic body, has won him plaudits from Navi Mumbai residents ever since he took charge in April this year. Residents and activists have firmly stood by Mundhe’s side, alleging that politicians are pursuing their vested interests, with ‘Support Mundhe’ messages going viral on social media. Mundhe, an IAS officer of the 2005 batch, has a reputation of being an honest and upright officer. He had faced similar instances of politicians ganging up against him during his tenure in Nagpur and Solapur districts.
NMMC corporators who passed the no-confidence motion alleged that the bureaucrat disrespects elected representatives and acts arbitrarily. The motion, proposed by the NCP, was passed in a 104-6 vote in the 111-member body with the Shiv Sena and Congress on board.