Governor Lalji Tandon clears ordinance, hits back at Congress Madhya Pradesh

Milind Ghatwai
Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon

Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon Tuesday cleared an ordinance to hold indirect elections for the posts of mayor and president of smaller municipal bodies, ending speculation and a war of words between the Opposition BJP and Congress.

Several senior leaders of both parties, including Chief Minister Kamal Nath and former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, had over the last few days called on Governor to argue for and against the ordinance, which seeks to restore practice of councillors, and not people, electing the mayor or the president.

BJP has accused Congress of being wary of defeat in direct elections, saying the system is prone to horse-trading when councillors choose mayor or president and the government uses its authority to influence the outcome. All mayors in the 16 municipal corporations in the state are from BJP.

Of the two ordinances sent to him, Governor had earlier cleared The MP Local Authorities (Electoral Offences) Amendment Ordinance that seeks to punish candidates with jail term up to six months and fine of up to Rs 25,000 for furnishing false information in their nominations, but had not given his immediate nod to the ordinance that seeks to amend the municipalities Act.

A tweet on Sunday by Congress Rajya Sabha MP and legal expert Vivek Tankha, who sought to remind Tandon of his ‘Rajya Dharma’, angered the octogenarian who took oath as Governor on July 29. The tweet also forced the CM to call on the Governor on Monday and explain his and the Congress’s position while describing Tankha’s comment as “personal views”.

Tankha had tweeted, “He should listen to the Opposition but withholding consent will set a wrong tradition.”

On Tuesday, the Raj Bhavan issued a statement without naming Tankha. “Commenting on the discretion of people holding constitutional posts amounts to violation of constitutional limits. Putting direct or indirect pressure on the Governor violates constitutional limits. This act is harmful to democratic traditions,” it read.

The note quoted CM as having told Governor that government had nothing to do with public comments by people who tried to pressure him. “Those comments are personal. It’s necessary in a democracy to respect limits,” the CM said without naming Tankha.

Tankha said he welcomed the Governor’s decision.