New Delhi: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday ordered that politicians in West Bengal, appointed as administrative heads of civic corporations and municipalities beyond their terms, should be replaced by government officers by 10 am on Monday, triggering a sharp reaction from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, who said it was a move against the ruling party prior to the eight-phase assembly polls, beginning on March 27.
Saturday’s order, the ECI said, was passed “to avoid a situation where critical functions of urban local bodies are actually discharged, thereby affecting the level playing field during the operation of Model Code of Conduct….” Since the administrators are politically affiliated persons, the present situation may “give rise to a legitimate apprehension in the mind of the voters about the fairness and impartiality of the election process,” the ECI said.
The TMC controls most of the 120 civic bodies in Bengal. The terms of the elected boards ended last year but fresh elections were not held because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The state government appointed the elected heads of the civic boards as administrators till fresh polls are held. For example, urban development minister Firhad Hakim, who was the mayor of Kolkata, was reappointed as administrative head of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s board.