Dispute between mayor and deputy halts works in Urlabari MunicipalityDeputy mayor claims the mayor took a unilateral decision and monopolised the workings of the municipality.
Administrative works and development activities in Urlabari Municipality have been halted for a month now due to a dispute between the municipality’s mayor and deputy mayor.
The protracted dispute between Mayor Khadga Phago and Deputy Mayor Laxmi Devi Bhandari reached a climax during an executive committee meeting of the local unit on July 13. Bhandari and a majority of the committee members boycotted the meeting stating that Phago took a unilateral decision and monopolised the workings of the municipality.
Bhandari and 12 ward chairpersons of the total 17 claimed that Phago and a few ward members close to him took unilateral decisions and presented them at the municipal meeting, thereby ignoring the majority of the members.
Phago and five ward chiefs were elected from the Nepali Congress, while Bhandari and 12 ward chairpersons won the local elections as Nepal Communist Party candidates.
Challenging the mayor’s one-sided and highhanded decisions, Bhandari filed a writ petition at the Biratnagar High Court against Phago’s working style on August 5.
“We repeatedly requested him to correct his decisions taken unilaterally, but he paid no heed to our wishes. He challenged us to go to court if we were dissatisfied with his decisions. So we went to the court seeking justice,” Bhandari told the Post.
On August 12, the high court issued an interim order in the name of Urlabari Municipality with directions to not implement any decisions presented at the municipal council a month ago. As a result, all the works in the local body have come to a halt, inconveniencing numerous service seekers.
The local people have been hit hardest by the dispute. They expressed their frustration for not being able to receive services from the municipality.
Bibek Hingbang of Urlabari Ward No. 6 has been unable to go abroad for employment, as the municipal office is currently not providing any service.
“I have been frequenting the municipal office for a week to verify my relationship certificate, but haven’t been able to get it done,” said Hingbang.
Bishnu Majhi of Urlabari Ward No. 4 has also been visiting the municipal office to verify her documents for a loan she intends to take.
“I have yet to get my land’s valuation letter. Until I get my letter, I won’t be able to take a loan from financial institutions,” she said.
Meanwhile, Phago said he was making efforts to reach an agreement by requesting the disgruntled side to withdraw the case.
“The municipality’s works have been affected for a month now. Locals are suffering. We are holding talks to end the impasse,” he said.
The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration had sent a letter to the municipality to resume its work for the benefit of the service seekers. According to Phago, the municipality received the letter on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Tek Bahadur Regmi, the municipality’s chief executive officer, reached the Morang District Administration Office on Saturday and demanded security, claiming that Mayor Phago has threatened him of bodily harm.
“I will not speak about the issue now, but I will soon organise a press meet,” said Regmi. He claimed that Phago told him not to implement the ministry’s instruction in the letter. Chief District Officer Madan Bhujel said the local administration would provide security to Regmi if needed and take the initiative to resolve the dispute.
When asked, Phago denied the allegations made by Regmi.
“I just called him over the telephone as he (Regmi) did not attend the office without having his leave approved,” said Phago. “I am committed to implementing the decision of the federal ministry.”