Between the master of ‘em all and underlings, it is always a sorted deal. A tiff here or a breach there, it all falls into place with admonitions and a pulling up of sorts. In the end, alls well that starts and ends with the master.
Little wonder then that the BJP-ruled Morbi civic body in blatant defiance of authority, questioned the BJP state government on January 23 to return the documents its probe team had “impounded” before expecting an answer on why it should not be dissolved for “failure to discharge its duties.”
The obliging BJP-ruled government did little to drive home the point that the irresponsible death of 135 must be answered for.
The resolution passed by the municipality’s general body said it could not respond to the notice till it got the records and documents that had been seized by an SIT, and that the government should not take any action till then. However, it is inconceivable that the municipality does not have copies of those records.
Before the municipality’s response to the January 18 notice by the government, hectic parleys were held at a coordination meeting held at the office of Lakhabhai Jariya, the president of the BJP’s Morbi town unit, and attended by newly elected BJP Morbi MLA Kantilal Amrutiya and around 18 councillors of the municipality.
The Bhupendra Patel-led BJP government going slow in the Morbi case is in sharp contrast to its action when it came to the dissolution of general boards of the Gondal taluka panchayat in Rajkot district, Bhanvad municipality in Devbhumi Dwarka, and Wankaner municipality in Morbi itself in recent years.
The 2016 dissolution of the Congress-controlled Gondal taluka panchayat followed the defection of some Congress members to the BJP, with the general board failing to pass the budget as a result. In Bhanvad similarly, in 2021, with the help of the Congress, BJP rebels managed to pass no-confidence motions against the municipality’s president and vice-president.
Instead of ordering a meeting of the general board to elect new presidents and vice-president, the government handed over charge of president to one of the BJP councillors, before eventually dissolving the municipality four months later.
In Wankaner, BJP rebels captured power by defeating the party’s official candidates in election to the posts of president and vice-president in March 2021, but after continued friction with it, the state government dissolved its general board in August 2022.
In the Morbi civic body in contrast, the BJP has full control, having won all its 52 seats in 2022. Led by president Kusum Parmar, it is the only civic body in Morbi district ruled by the BJP that does not have Patidar councillors. Hence, any crackdown against the municipality will come at a price for the party.
The collapse of the Morbi bridge, owned by the municipality but managed and maintained by Ajanta Manufacturing Private Limited of OREVA Group, happened days ahead of the Assembly elections in Gujarat. In the immediate aftermath, the then chief officer (CO) of the Morbi municipality, Sandipsin Zala, blamed the OREVA Group for the lack of a safety audit of the bridge, saying it had not informed the civic body that it was throwing it open on October 26, after a long shutdown for repairs.
On November 24, hearing a PIL on the matter, the Gujarat High Court held that the Morbi municipality seemed to be at fault and asked the government why it was not superseding the body.
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