HP House passes Bill to hold MC polls on party symbols

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Assembly on Monday passed the Bill clearing the decks for the BJP government to hold next polls to the four Municipal Corporations –Dharamshala, Palampur, Mandi and Solan on party symbols. This was despite the Congress MLAs and lone CPM MLA Rakesh Singha staging a walk-out as their plea to make certain amendments in the Bill were not allowed by the government, especially minister for urban local bodies Suresh Bhardwaj.

Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and Congress Chief whip Jagat Singh Negi pointed out that the Bill has several shortcomings, including one relating to application of roster of reservation for the Mayor and Deputy Mayors belonging to SC/ST/OBC and others.

The reservations, as per Bill, were to be decided on the basis of draw of lots –which is neither a transparent way nor acceptable to the members.

Inside the House, Agnihotri urged the government to give two more days to allow members to submit their amendments.

However Deputy Speaker Hansraj read a notification in the House and added that the MLAs were given sufficient time to speak on the Bills.

Negi said the government had not specified in the new legislation about cross voting. He said provisions should be made in the Bill to check cross voting. The power to conduct Municipal Corporation polls should be given to the Election Commission of India in place of the State Election Commission because the ruling party could influence the government officers to ensure cross voting in favour of party candidates for the post of Mayor or Deputy Mayor.

He asked why the government was in a hurry to pass the bill. It's clear that it has political considerations and the bill was being brought to amendment without giving opportunity to house members to submit their suggestions.

CPM MLA Rakesh Singha also opposed the Bill.

He said that the government, which has an absolute majority in the House, can get the Bill cleared. Yet, even if the Government is able to pass the bill today without accepting opposition amendments, it would be challenged in court.

"I reserve my right to take proper legal recourse against the bill," Singha said.

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