Siliguri Budget logjam: Cong may seek LF support

The Statesman

SILIGURI, 20 JUNE: After the disqualification of controversial Siliguri Municipal Corporation chairman Mr Nantu Pal under the Anti-Defection Law, the Congress-led civic body is toying with the idea of seeking support from 17 Left Front councillors to pass the annual corporation budget.

The budget had been placed before the civic body on 23 March but has not been passed yet due to political turmoil ~ the Trinamul Congress withdrew support to the Congress on 25 March, the day the budget was scheduled to be passed after debate. The Left Front boycotted the budget session on the Nantu Pal issue as well. Congress has 14 councillors in the civic body, while the Trinamul Congress had 15 councillors.  However, following Mr Pal’s disqualification as SMC chairman ~ he switched from the Congress to the Trinamul Congress ~ the Trinamul’s strength has reduced to 14.

With impasse continuing over the passage of the budget, the state municipal affairs department had issued an order in April, instructing the civic body commissioner to approve bills on regular expenditure pertaining to only 16 heads in the current financial quarter.

The order, which was valid up to 30 June, all but crippled the functioning of the board, as spending authority had very little leeway.

“We are now hopeful that things would be put back on the rails. Our main priority now is to pass the civic budget. Besides, we will take initiatives to have the financial embargo revoked. We will explore the legal option if necessary,” said the SMC mayor, Ms Gangotri Datta.

A senior Congress leader hinted that the Congress might seek support from the Left Front to pass the budget. According to the Congress sources, the budget meeting might be held on 27 June to be followed by a debate on 29 June.

“With no possibility of the Trinamul Congress supporting the budget, we would approach all the political parties, including the Left Front,” the leader said.

When asked whether the Left Front would support the budget, the Opposition leader Mr Nurul Islam, said the Congress has not approached them so far. According to a Congress Member of Mayor-in-council (MMIC), the corporation would now initiate developmental projects, including road repairing, erecting electric polls, construction of drains and the like.

“This is an imperative now. But with the financial embargo hanging over us, it would prove difficult to go for development in full swing. We need to act so as to have it lifted,” said an MMIC.

On the other hand, Mr Nantu Pal is likely to appeal to the appellate authority against the order. When asked, Mr Pal said he would take the decision after discussion in the party.

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