|Nantu Paul (right) with his lawyer at the divisional commissioner’s office in Jalpaiguri on June 13|
June 19: Nantu Paul, the SMC chairman whose councillorship was in doubt after he switched from the Congress to Trinamul, has been disqualified under the anti-defection law.
The Congress had gone to Calcutta High Court seeking Paul’s disqualification from councillorship and the chairman’s post under the anti-defection law of the West Bengal Municipal Corporation Act, 2006.
Paul will also lose his civic chairman’s post, mayor Gangotri Datta, who is from the Congress, said today.
Paul switched from Congress to Trinamul in September last year.
After the Congress moved the high court, on April 2 the court ordered the state government to appoint a competent authority before whom Paul had to declare his party affiliation.
A.K. Singh, the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, was appointed the competent authority by the state government on April 5.
On April 19, mayor Datta and Congress leader Jiban Majumdar filed a petition before Singh seeking Paul’s disqualification as a councillor .
Paul appeared twice before Singh, on June 13 and 15, and said he had applied for a membership in Trinamul but was yet to receive it. He also mentioned that in 2009, he had won as a Congress candidate and became the councillor of ward 11.
“Based on the submissions made by both sides, the competent authority ordered Paul’s disqualification. His councillorship stands cancelled. The order has been communicated to him, the mayor, the SMC commissioner and also to the state municipal affairs department,” said an administrative source.
The order was issued on June 17.
In his order, Singh has mentioned about Paul’s decision to move against the Congress and file a nomination for the post of the chairman against Congress candidate Sabita Devi Agarwal.
“From the submissions made by the mayor and clarifications by Paul, the competent authority has found that his actions were pro-Trinamul. This is why the disqualification was ordered according to sections 14 (1) (a) (ii) and (iii),” said the source.
According to the West Bengal Municipal Corporation Act, 2006, “such competent authority for the corporation” can declare “a councillor to be disqualified… if he is an elected councillor set up by a recognised political party and has joined another recognised political party”.
“He (Paul) will have to move out of the office of the civic chairman,” Datta said.
With Paul’s disqualification, Trinamul now has 14 councillors, the same number as the Congress, while the Left Front has 17.
The mayor said deputy mayor Sabita Devi Agarwal would assume the chairman’s office on an interim basis.
“It is mentioned in the act that the deputy mayor can act as the chairman for a period of one month in case the office falls vacant. Regarding the election of the new chairman, we can comment only after discussions with the party leaders,” Dutta said.
Subin Bhowmik, a PCC member from Siliguri, said: “The order reaffirms our allegation that Trinamul has got involved in the unethical game of inducing workers and leaders of other political parties. That these strategies of Trinamul will not work have been proved.”
Paul could not be contacted today.
“We have complete faith in the law. There are some options open to him (Paul) to appeal. We will not speak elaborately and will soon hold talks on the order,” north Bengal development minister and Trinamul leader Gautam Deb said.
“We want to reiterate that the Congress has miserably failed to run the civic board,” he said.