Monday date for no-trust motion

Calcutta, Feb. 1: Calcutta High Court today asked the authorities of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation to convene a meeting on Monday to take up a no-confidence motion moved by the Left Front against civic body chairman Nantu Pal.

The order was issued by the single judge bench of Justice Jayanta Biswas on a petition filed by all 17 Left councillors of the SMC. The no-trust motion was moved by the Left after Pal had resigned from the Congress and joined the Trinamul Congress in September last year.

In the 47-member board, the Congress has 14 members now, while Trinamul has 15 councillors. One seat is vacant after the resignation of a Trinamul councillor.

The Left is sure to vote for the no-trust motion, but the Congress is yet to make its stand clear. The Congress had written to the SMC commissioner seeking Pal's removal from the post of chairman and termination of the councillorship under the anti-defection law.

Senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, who appeared for the Left councillors in the high court, said the petition was filed as the SMC commissioner had refused to call a meeting to discuss the motion despite repeated requests.

"Even Congress councillors have asked the commissioner to remove Pal from his post. But the commissioner was reluctant to convene the meeting," said Bhattacharya.

"When 31 out of 46 members are demanding the removal of the chairman, why is the commissioner not calling the meeting?" he asked.

The lawyer said in the 2009 election, the Left had bagged 17 seats. "Initially, both Trinamul and Congress had 15 seats each. Later, a Trinamul councillor resigned and the party's tally came down to 14."

The Congress and Trinamul had entered into an alliance to contest the polls in 2009. But after the polls, the alliance broke after a rift cropped up over which party would hold the posts of mayor and chairman. The Congress formed the board, backed by the Left.

But in July 2011, after Mamata Banerjee came to power in the state, Trinamul and Congress reached an understanding and Pal from the Congress became the chairman.

Things changed after the Congress pulled out of the state government following Trinamul's withdrawal of support to the UPA government at the Centre last year. In September, Pal quit the Congress and joined Trinamul. Ever since, the Congress has been boycotting the monthly board meetings called by Pal.

Reacting to the high court order, CPM leader Asok Bhattacharya said: "We were forced to appeal to the judiciary and finally, Calcutta High Court issued the order today. This has proved that the state government and the civic body were at fault (in not taking up the no-trust motion."

SMC chairman Pal, however, said he was yet to receive the order. "In case such an order has been issued, the civic body will abide by it," he said.

Sources said Monday's meeting would have to be called by Pal, but he couldn't chair the session. "Some other councillor will chair the meeting," said a source.

Mayor Gangotri Datta of the Congress said: "I have heard about the order. The mayor does not have any role to play here. It is entirely with the civic chairman and the SMC commissioner. The commissioner will have to serve the notice while the chairman will have to convene the meeting."

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