On Thursday, AMID high drama, Patiala Mayor Sanjeev Sharma Bittu was suspended after securing 25 votes in the floor test of 60 councilors of the Municipal Corporation.
However, Bittu could not be removed after facing a floor test as he got 25 votes, while only 36 votes were cast against him. To remove him after failing a floor test, Congress councilors backed by the government needed 42 votes (2/3 majority).
Punjab Local Bodies Minister Brahm Mohindra told the media later in the day that Bittu has been suspended and the charge of Patiala Mayor has been given to Deputy Mayor Yoginder Singh Yogi. Mohindra said that Bittu needed 30 votes to continue as mayor, but could manage to get only 25 votes.
The fact that the Congress councilor backed by the government could not ensure a 2/3 majority against Bittu, is being seen in many quarters as a setback for the ruling party. Along with Mohindra, two other ministers – Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, and Rural Development and Panchayat Minister, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa – were also camping in Patiala to ensure the party’s victory in the civic body.
At the same time, the floor test was a litmus test for the former chief minister. Capt Amarinder Singh Also, who has recently resigned from the Congress and formed his own party, while announcing that he will contest from next year’s assembly elections from the seat. Bittu, considered close to Amarinder, got the support of only 24 councilors and Amarinder’s vote.
Bittu had sided with the former chief minister and his wife, Congress MP Preneet Kaur, when 42 councilors of the Patiala civic body wrote to the government to bring a no-confidence motion against the mayor. Sources said that over 40 councilors had signed the no-confidence motion, but it was strange that the ruling party could ensure only 36 votes against Bittu. This is despite the fact that 59 councilors in the House are from the Congress and only one represents the Shiromani Akali Dal. Saroj Sharma, a woman Congress corporator who accompanied Bittu, was not allowed to vote as she had just returned from abroad and was required to self-isolate as part of the COVID protocol.
Amarinder had specially reached Patiala to take part in the no-confidence motion on Thursday. Being an MLA from Patiala Urban, Amarinder is an ex-officio member of the Patiala Municipal Corporation House. Local Bodies Minister Brahm Mohindra, who is also an MLA from Patiala Rural, is also a member of the House. Sanaur MLA, Harinderpal Singh Chandumajra, who is a SAD member, is also an ex-officio member. But he refrained from taking sides while the lone councilor of the party voted for Bittu.
After his suspension on Thursday, Bittu announced that he would move the High Court against the decision as he needed only 1/3rd majority to continue as mayor. “It means I needed only 21 votes in my favour. I got 25 votes. They cannot constitutionally suspend me,” he said.
Before the no-confidence motion, huge drama was witnessed at the Patiala Municipal Corporation house and Amarinder’s vehicle was stopped by the police at the gate. After this the former CM went home and even asked him for his ID proof. On the other hand, Mohindra’s car was allowed inside.
Bittu went live on Thursday Facebook When the police tried to forcibly remove a councilor and some supporters of Bittu from the spot. He alleged that the police forcibly picked up Vijay Kukka and Atul Joshi. After much drama, both were allowed inside the house of the civic body.
Amarinder later told Indian Express That the government had broken all the rules to suspend the mayor even though they did not have a 2/3 majority to remove him,” Brahm (Mohindra) probably had received instructions from the government that the mayor should be removed at any cost. Will have to be removed. That’s why they suspended him. This was his one point agenda. Now Bittu will move the high court.’
Condemning the barbaric use of state machinery by the state government to remove the mayor, the former chief minister cautioned the officials against blindly following the government’s instructions as they would be held accountable by law.
Amarinder said there should be two-thirds support against the motion for the no-confidence motion to be passed to remove the mayor. “Knowing that he lacked the numbers, he tried to remove the mayor forcibly and illegally”, he said, adding that according to the rules, a mayor cannot be removed by a simple majority.
The former chief minister congratulated the councilors who stood firm despite criminal threats by the government.