Mumbai: Election Commission Removes Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal Despite Mahayuti's Resistance

Mumbai: Election Commission Removes Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal Despite Mahayuti's Resistance

Bhushan Gagrani, IAS officer of the 1990 batch, is widely tipped to be the new Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai. A seasoned bureaucrat working in the CMO, he has wide administrative experience.

SHEFALI PARAB-PANDITUpdated: Monday, March 18, 2024, 10:19 PM IST
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Election Commission Removes Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal Despite Mahayuti's Resistance | ANI

Mumbai: Despite strong resistance from the Mahayuti government in general and chief minister Eknath Shinde in particular, the Election Commission of India on Monday ordered the removal of municipal commissioner I.S. Chahal.

The state government had written twice to the ECI to let it retain Chahal, who was the blue-eyed boy of Shinde,  but the Commission firmly rejected the request and showed Chahal the door at the iconic BMC headquarters.

Chahal was so close to Shinde that even the ruling BJP could not ease him out despite the best of efforts on the part of senior party leaders like deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis,  Ashish Shelar, Kirit Somaiya et al.

Mr Fadnavis even got the office of the  Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to probe a slew of controversial contracts worth thousands of crores awarded by Chahal, in whom all the powers of the statutory committees were vested following the end of the five-year term of the corporators.

But these efforts too came to a complete naught. Former leader of opposition of the Congress Ravi Raja, who had also exposed a series scams under the aegis of the Chahal administration, said the civic chief's transfer was "long overdue."

Since the BJP could not persuade Shinde to move out Chahal, it appears to have  tacitly persuaded the ECI to order the transfer of the controversial IAS official.  So, a day after declaring the Lok Sabha election, the ECI stepped in and directed the state chief secretary's office to remove Chahal along with other officials who have completed over three years in their respective  positions. 

Chahal was appointed as a municipal commissioner on May 8, 2020, replacing Praveen Pardeshi during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was hailed for the way he handled the situation during the pandemic, but also had to face allegations for illegally awarding a contract for medical services for a Jumbo Covid centre to a company allegedly  run by an associate of Rajya Sabha MP and ShivSena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut.

The term of the BMC’s general body expired on March 8, 2022, after which the state government, then headed by Uddhav Thackeray, appointed Chahal as an administrator. After the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, he was caught in the middle of a political war between two Shiv Sena, one led by the chief minister Shinde and the other by  Uddhav Thackeray.

Chahal was first accused of serving the agenda of the Thackeray government and later he has been criticised for  taking orders only from Shinde and favouring builders perceived to be close to the CM. Chahal approved several big ticket projects worth around Rs two lakh crores, such as Dahisar-Bhayander Link Road, Mumbai Coastal Road phase 2- Versova to Dahisar, Goregaon- Mulund Link Road, Desalination plant, concretisation of roads, Mumbai Beautification project, upgradation of seven Sewerage treatment plant in his nearly four- year tenure in the municipal corporation. 

Aaditya Thackeray of Shiv Sena (UBT), who had a running battle with Chahal, accused him blamed for alleged irregularities in the tender for road works worth Rs. 6,000 crore, followed by awarding contracts for street furniture and Mumbai beautification work, as well as alleged preferential treatment in the civic budget to former BJP councillors’ wards.

Despite several controversies and accusations, it was said that the state government was not in favour of Chahal's transfer. The state government also wrote to the EC twice to exempt Chahal's transfer.

However, Chahal's Raj came to an end on Monday, after the poll body issued an order to transfer all the municipal commissioners along with additional or deputy municipal commissioners of other corporations in Maharashtra who had completed three years in their position. 

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