‘Misuse of power by office-bearers’: Govt supersedes Wankaner municipality

Around a year after a group of BJP councilors rebelled against the party and captured the power of the Wankaner municipality in Morbi district, the state government issued an order late Saturday superseding the civic body citing “violations” of various provisions of the Gujarat Municipalities Act ( GMA), 1963.

Shabana Kureshi, deputy secretary in the Urban Development and Urban Housing (UD&UH) department, stated in the order that the civic body had failed to discharge its duties.

“… The state government feels that Wankaner municipality has failed to perform its duties… and ‘Misuse of power by office-bearers’: Govt supersedes Wankaner municipality it has misused its powers and that it is unable to perform its duties as provided for in the said Municipalities Act. Therefore … the Gujarat government, taking into account reasons cited above, hereby declares Wankaner municipality as incapable of performing its duties as provided in the said Act and dissolves Wankaner municipality with immediate effect, ”stated the order.

Soon after the state government issued the orders, Sandipsin Zala, in-charge chief officer of Wankaner municipality, seized the resolution books and sealed the chamber of the president late Saturday. “The chief officer had orders to seize the resolution book and seal the president’s chamber. The government will shortly appoint an administrator for looking after routine affairs of the civic body until a new general board is elected, ”said sources.

The supersession comes around 17 months after 11 councilors of the ruling BJP rebelled against the party and elected Jayshree Sejpal and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja as the new president and vice-president respectively, with the help of four Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) councilors on March 17, 2021. The rebellion had left the BJP red-faced as the saffron party lost power in the civic body despite it having won 24 out of 28 seats in that municipality in the general election held in 2018.

The order states that Jadeja went beyond his powers to suspend employees of the civic body, kept daily attendance muster of civic officers and employees in his office, did not pay education cess, the fee of registration of births and deaths, etc to the government on time, allowed striking employees of the civic body to use a ground of the municipality for staging dharna, failed to utilize and plan the use of various government grants and issued separate labor and material contracts for providing office furniture to the civic body.

The supersession follows a show-cause notice issued by the UD&UH to the president and vice-president on June 13, enlisting various alleged violations and seeking their response by June 13 () if why the civic body should not be superseded. Accordingly, the president convened a meeting of the general board of the municipality and adopted a resolution giving causes for not superseding the civic body and forwarded it to the state government. The resolution was supported by 18 out of 21 councilors who attended the general board meeting.

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In the meantime, the president and the vice-president moved the Gujarat High Court against the show-cause notice. The court directed the government to give an in-person hearing to the municipality before proceeding further. Accordingly, the government gave the municipality a hearing on July 5 but no one turned up. The government again scheduled a hearing on July 12 that was attended by Jadeja and two councilors. They sought 15 days to respond to the June 13 notice. Therefore, the government again scheduled a hearing on July 16. The president attended the hearing to seek more time for filing a response.

“Thus, the municipality didn’t make any submissions at all the three hearings and instead, sought more time. Considering this, it is established that it only wants to delay the proceedings, ”the order notes.

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