West Bengal Minister for Housing and Fire Services Sovan Chatterjee resigned from the state cabinet on Tuesday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.
"He had earlier expressed his will to resign four-five times... We thought that he will realise (his mistakes). He resigned today and we have accepted it. He has also been asked to quit the post of Kolkata mayor," Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat.
The resignation letter has been forwarded to Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, the chief minister stated.
She said Chatterjee's portfolios had been handed over to state Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim. "Hakim will take additional responsibilities of the two departments held by Chatterjee. Since a mayor has to be elected, we will decide on it later," Banerjee said.
She added that Kolkata Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Khalil Ahmed, had been asked to look after the operations of the civic body. Chatterjee sent his resignation letter through a messenger to Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) chairperson Mala Roy on Thursday.
Roy, accepting the resignation letter, held a high-level meeting at her office Thursday. "Received Mr Sovan Chatterjee's resignation from the post of mayor through his messenger. I have accepted it. The other formalities will be followed as per rules, after a Trinamool Congress councillors' meeting convened by the party supremo Mamata Banerjee is held this evening."
The search for Kolkata's next mayor begins
Following Chatterjee's resignation, the West Bengal government was mulling an amendment in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation Act, 1980 to facilitate the appointment of a new city mayor.
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 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.
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.
Following this, Banerjee had removed Chatterjee from the post of the environment minister. Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari took the additional charge of the Environment department.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2018 15:38:04 IST