A relatively lacklustre function to mark the release of the Congress manifesto for MC elections was livened up with a candid admission, on the controversial issue of voting rights to nominated councillors, from four-time city MP and ex-railway minister Pawan Bansal.
“I am also to be blamed to some extent and am partially, a Gunahgar (guilty party) in the decision to allow voting rights to nominated councillors,” he said at the manifesto-release press conference.
NOMINATED COUNCILLORS MAKE 25% OF HOUSE
The issue has been a talking point for long as the nine nominated councillors make up 25% of the total House strength of 36. Elections for 26 is to be held on Sunday and the city MP is an ex-officio member. The nominated councillors were meant to be persons of proven expertise in their chosen field who would advise the House as it made decisions.
However, with voting rights granted since Chandigarh got its MC in 1996, their role has been subject to scrutiny with some of these councillors getting involved in active party politics to curry favour and perhaps win another nomination.
Bansal also admitted that the relevant change in law was done in haste. “When I was MP in 1991, we made some changes in the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act 1976, but it was done it haste. There is no provision in the Constitution of voting rights for nominated councillors as well as the MP in local bodies... we have realised that there were lapses in the way the Act was interpreted. The matter is in court, let it decide.”
Interestingly, the Congress’ realisation that voting rights to nominated councillors needs a rethink has come at a time when it is not in power in the House.
An exception to this Congress stand was seen in December 2015 when its leader Poonam Sharma was the mayor. Then, former Union minister Manish Tewari had even opposed the appointment of nominated councillors.
BJP HAS FILED PETITION AGAINST VOTING RIGHTS
Since 1998, the BJP has been opposing voting rights to nominated councillors in the MC House. Last month, BJP councillor Satinder Singh had filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court challenging their voting rights.