‘Abuse of Power by Officials’: Government Replaces Wakaner Municipality

About a year after a group of BJP advisers rebelled against the party and seized power from the municipality of Wankaner in the district of Morbi, the state government on Saturday evening issued an ordinance replacing the civic body citing “violations” of various provisions of the Gujarat Municipalities Act (GMA), 1963.

Shabana Kureshi, deputy secretary of the Department of Urban Development and Urban Housing (UD&UH), said in the order that the civic body had failed to fulfill its duties.

“…state government believes Wankaner Municipality has failed in its duties…and ‘abuse of power by members of the office’: government replaces Wankaner Municipality, it has abused its powers and that it is unable to perform its functions as provided in the said Municipalities Act.Therefore… the Government of Gujarat, in view of the reasons cited above, hereby declares the Municipality of Wankaner unable to ‘perform its functions as provided in the said Act and dissolves the Municipality of Wankaner with immediate effect,’ the order reads.

Shortly after the state government issued the orders, Sandipsin Zala, chief officer of Wankaner Municipality, seized the resolution books and sealed off the president’s chamber on Saturday night. “The chief officer had orders to seize the book of resolutions and seal the president’s chamber. The government will soon appoint an administrator to take care of the day-to-day affairs of the civic body until a new general council is elected,” sources said.

The replacement comes about 17 months after 11 advisers from 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 advisers from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP ) the 17th of March. 2021. The rebellion had left the BJP red-faced as the saffron party lost power in the civic body as it won 24 out of 28 seats in this municipality in the general elections held in 2018.

The order states that Jadeja went beyond his powers to suspend employees of the civic body, held the daily gathering of municipal officers and employees in his office, failed to pay the education tax, birth and death registration fees, etc. to the government the time, allowed the striking employees of the civic body to use land of the municipality to organize the dharna, did not use and planned the use of various government subsidies and issued employment contracts and separate materials to provide office furniture to the civic organization.

The replacement follows a show cause notice issued by the UD&UH to the president and vice president on June 13, enlisting various alleged violations and requesting their response by June 13 () if why the civic body does not should not be replaced. Accordingly, the president called a meeting of the general council of the municipality and adopted a resolution indicating the reasons for not replacing the civic body and forwarded it to the state government. The resolution was supported by 18 of the 21 councilors who attended the general council meeting.

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In the meantime, the President and Vice President moved the Gujarat High Court against the show cause notice. The court ordered the government to grant an in-person hearing to the municipality before proceeding. As a result, the government gave the municipality a hearing on July 5, but no one showed up. The government again scheduled a hearing for July 12, which was attended by Jadeja and two advisers. They asked for 15 days to respond to the June 13 notice. Therefore, the government has again scheduled a hearing for July 16. The President attended the hearing to request more time to file a response.

“Thus, the municipality made no submissions during the three hearings and instead asked for more time. In view of this, it is established that he only wishes to delay the proceedings,” the order notes.