Plan to stage protest before council meeting had to be cancelled

On a day when the issue of faulty and non-existent street lights rocked the Corporation council meeting, the questions were not on the lights per se but on the number of Opposition councillors who supported their party’s protest on the issue.

As soon as the meeting began on Saturday afternoon, Leader of the Opposition Johnson Joseph rushed to the well of the hall saying that the council should not function as long as the street lights in the city were not working. The rest of the Opposition councillors followed him bearing a torch and raising slogans.

The council was soon dissolved after all the agendas were passed with the unanimous assent of the ruling party councillors. Two adjournment motions, one ironically on the street light issue, were also passed without any discussion.

After the Mayor declared that the proceedings of the day were over, the Opposition councillors led the protest outside the Corporation gates onto the main road. But hiding behind this show of unity were the factional feud within the Opposition that came out into the open during a failed protest programme on Saturday morning.

Some Opposition councillors told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that all of them were asked to gather in front of the Corporation at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning to launch the protests on the street light issue. But even after an hour, only the Leader of the Opposition and five others turned up.

“We decided to stay away to mark our protest against the UDF council party leadership which has been a letdown in the past three years. This morning protest turned out to be a major embarrassment for them and they cancelled it after it was confirmed that no one would turn up,” says one of the councillors of the opposite faction.

However, a majority of the councillors stuck to the ‘official line’ that the morning protest was dropped to concentrate all their efforts on the one at the council meeting. “There was a slight confusion in the morning regarding the protest programme. Later we decided to hold it during the council meeting,” said UDF councillor A. Mujeeb Rahman.

The Leader of the Opposition said the protest was not held in the morning as many councillors were busy with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s mass contact programme till late on Friday.

The councillors from the opposite faction said they were not fully in support of the protest at the council meeting also but still supported it as they did not want to send wrong messages regarding unity within the party.

“The protest started today before any discussion on the issue could happen. It looked as if it was done in tacit agreement with the ruling party. Such protests, which do not achieve much, has been a trend and it is one of our disagreements with the current leadership,” says one of the councillors.

The events on Saturday confirmed rumours of disagreements within the Opposition and demands for change in leadership at a meeting convened at the DCC office last week.

The decision

As for the street lights, the council decided to deposit the amount required for maintenance work with the KSEB and to execute the work using contract employees with the board overseeing the work.

An adjournment motion in this regard was moved by the chairperson of the works standing committee V.S. Padmakumar and was passed by the ruling party councillors amidst sloganeering by the Opposition.