In a first, Kochi corporation secretary tables budget; unhappy Opposition stages sit-in

The tension escalated when the mayor arrived late by 15 minutes.
UDF councillors protesting against Mayor M Anilkumar during the budget presentation on Tuesday
UDF councillors protesting against Mayor M Anilkumar during the budget presentation on Tuesday (Photo | A Sanesh)

KOCHI: Chaos prevailed in the council hall on Tuesday as the Kochi corporation secretary -- in a first such instance -- tabled the budget for 2024-25 after the finance standing committee chaired by CPI nominee K A Ansiya failed to prepare the budget proposals.

Tension flared up between the councillors of the ruling LDF and the opposition UDF after the CPI leadership prevented Ansiya, who is also the deputy mayor, from presenting the budget citing the CPM’s unwillingness to share the development standing committee chairperson’s post.

The secretary, Chelsasini V, tabled the budget under Section 290 of the Kerala Municipality Act. This is the first time in Kochi corporation’s history that the secretary is tabling the budget.

The feud between the two major constituents over the post of development standing committee chairperson resulted in the LDF facing an embarrassing situation. The CPM-CPI deadlock played into the hands of the UDF members, leading to the unruly scenes on the budget day.

The situation unfolded around 10.30 am -- the time scheduled for budget presentation -- with the UDF councillors led by Leader of Opposition Antony Kureethara of the Congress staging protests holding placards and slogans against the ruling front. The opposition members came to the council with a cutout of Mayor M Anilkumar, with his face removed. The UDF said they would not let the deputy mayor present the budget as it was neither prepared nor approved by the finance standing committee.

The tension escalated when the mayor arrived late by 15 minutes. The UDF councillors walked to the dais and surrounded him, shouting slogans. Heated exchanges followed between the rival councillors after the mayor asked the deputy mayor to present the budget.

However, the mayor dropped the plan and asked the corporation secretary to table the budget as per the notice given under Section 290 of the Kerala Municipality Act. While assuring the councillors that the deputy mayor would not present the budget, Anilkumar reminded the council that the Kerala Municipality Act neither restricts the deputy mayor from delivering the budget speech nor sitting next to him.

The council witnessed dramatic scenes when Ansiya delivered a speech minutes after the secretary tabled the budget. The councillors tore the budget papers and scattered it around the council hall, demanding the resignation of the deputy mayor. With that, the mayor left the dais. However, the UDF councillors staged a sit-in against the LDF in front of the deputy mayor’s office.

“This is a clear example of how the Kochi corporation administration is functioning. The people who are answerable to the public are fighting for seats. The deputy mayor is responsible for presenting the budget to the finance committee and then before the council,” said Kureethara.

Later, the mayor said in a press conference that the protests and conduct against the presentation of the corporation budget “are indicative of the criminalisation of politics”. He admitted the finance committee did not prepare the budget in a timely manner.

“Efforts have been made to address the issues as far as possible. According to Section 290 of the Budget Act, the secretary tabled the budget,” Anilkumar said.

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