High drama unfolded on Thursday during the voting on a no-confidence against Patiala Mayor Sanjeev Sharma Bittu with Punjab Minister Brahm Mohindra claiming that the city’s municipal corporation chief has been suspended after losing the trust vote.
Rejecting Mohindra’s claim that the mayor has been suspended after losing the confidence by 11 votes, Bittu, a protege of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, said he needed only 21 votes and he had easily achieved the number needed.
Mohindra had claimed that Bittu had lost the motion after securing merely 25 votes in favour and 36 against him. I am not a new mayor being elected who needed the number of 31 votes (of councillors). Under the no-confidence motion which was brought, I needed one-third, which I got, Bittu told reporters in Patiala.
Mohindra, however, claimed the Patiala Municipal Corporation mayor had failed to prove the majority. It is a victory of elected councillors. Mayor has been suspended since he lost the confidence vote, Mohindra said.
Senior Deputy Mayor Yoginderpal Singh Yogi will hold the charge of the mayor’s post till a new mayor is elected, Mohindra said. Bittu’s victory was seen as crucial for Amarinder Singh, with Patiala being his bastion. However, while the majority of Congress councillors had earlier secured tickets on recommendations of Patiala MP and Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur, the fact that 36 voted against Bittu, showed that they have shifted their loyalties.
The Patiala MC has a House with a total strength of 63 which includes three sitting legislators. Two members abstained from voting. There was high drama during the voting process in Patiala.
There were unruly scenes inside the Patiala Municipal Corporation during the voting on the no-confidence motion, with some councillors supporting Bittu alleging that some of them were dragged by some unknown people to prevent them from casting their votes. A week ago, majority councillors had sent a requisition to the mayor expressing their no-confidence after which Bittu had decided to hold a general house meeting on Thursday to prove his majority.
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was also present. His convoy was stopped well before the Patiala MC office, but he walked to the building.
His daughter Jai Inder Kaur, however, was spotted sitting on stairs outside the main entrance of the Patiala MC office after being refused entry by the officials concerned.
Amarinder Singh, who has floated his own outfit after his unceremonious exit as Punjab chief minister, alleged that despite criminal intimidation and arm twisting of councillors, the state government could not win the vote of no confidence against Mayor Sanjeev Sharma Bittu.
Condemning the alleged high handedness and the brutal use of state machinery by the state government just to remove the mayor, the former chief minister cautioned officers against blindly following the diktats of the government as they will be held accountable by law. For passing the vote of no confidence to remove a mayor, there should be two-third support against the motion. Despite knowing that they were short of numbers, they tried to forcibly and illegally remove the mayor, he said in a statement later.
He also pointed out that according to the rules, a mayor cannot be removed by a simple majority. The former chief minister congratulated the councillors, who firmly stood their ground despite criminal intimidation by the government.
He regretted that the government was trying to use the state machinery including the police to remove a legally elected mayor by illegal means. Capt Amarinder Singh asserted that he will use all the legal and constitutional means available to prevent the illegal action of the government.
This government is there for just a few weeks more, but you have a long career ahead. So don’t invite the wrath of law and strictures and blemish your careers, he advised the officers.