Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’s first political outing after quitting Congress to help his loyalist and Patiala mayor retain his post did not turn out as expected.
The mayor managed to defeat the no-confidence motion but remains suspended for failing to prove his majority in the House. Of the total House strength of 60 (after excluding the three MLAs), 35 councillors voted against Bittu, while 25 voted in his favour.
The political drama unfolded on Capt Amarinder’s home turf and the rebellion against mayor Sanjiv Sharma Bittu was seen as the first direct “Amarinder versus Congress” contest. After stepping down in September, Amarinder had announced plans to launch his new party, Punjab Lok Congress, claiming that many Congress leaders were in touch with him and will switch once the assembly elections are announced. Also, most of the 59 Congress councillors in the 60-member House were given tickets on the recommendation of Patiala MP and Capt’s wife Preneet Kaur.
The civic body witnessed a turmoil after many councillors shifted loyalties with Amarinder’s exit from Congress. A week after 42 of the 60 councillors of the Patiala municipal corporation expressed their no-confidence, the mayor had decided to hold a general House meeting to prove his majority.
The Congress had deputed cabinet minister Brahm Mohindra to ensure the mayor’s removal. Three MLAs from the area – Amarinder (Patiala), Brahm Mohindra (Patiala Rural) and Harinder Pal Singh Chandumajra (Sanour) — too had their votes. However, SAD member abstained from voting.
Both sides claimed victory. The Congress camp said the first agenda item was to ‘Get vote of confidence’ in support of the mayor and the no confidence motion was relegated to the supplementary agenda, the mayor had lost out on the first count itself and the next agenda item had become irrelevant.
Mohindra, who is also the ex-officio member of House, said when Bittu presented the agenda to prove his confidence in the House, for which he needed more than 50% votes of members present and voting, he “could not prove his confidence”. He said, “A total of 31 votes were required to prove his confidence… he got only 25 votes… which means he lost the confidence. He, therefore, stands suspended and the senior deputy mayor will take over from him.” Senior deputy mayor Y S Yogi has been given the officiating charge of mayor.
On the other hand, Amarinder said that for passing the vote of no confidence to remove a mayor, there should be two-third support (42 votes). “Despite knowing that they were short of numbers, they tried to forcibly and illegally remove the mayor,” he said. According to the rules, a mayor cannot be removed by a simple majority, he said while speaking to media later. About Mohindra’s announcement on suspension of the mayor, Amarinder said if need be, his group will move court.
Condemning the “high handedness and brutal use of state machinery” just to remove the mayor, Amarinder cautioned the officers against blindly following the diktats of the government. Bittu claimed he had not received any notice of suspension and he had the confidence of one-third voters.