GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: More rallies, says chief

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: More rallies, says chief – calls for soul-searching on disunity, maybe one psychological complex superseding another, GJM or ‘Other’s’ to understand, “phalney bot jhukcha ki” ?!! 

(SYNTAX OF BENGAL’S REPORTS ON EVENTS DELIBERATELY CHANGED FOR A WIDER  OVERALL PERSPECTIVE)
 

Nari Morcha members take out a rally in Kalimpong on Tuesday - to be followed by Asthai Karmachari Sangh, then Yuva Morcha upto 26th, then ?!! (Photo by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT 

Kalimpong, May 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to intensify its street campaign in the lead-up to second round of political-level tripartite dialogue which is expected to focus on an interim arrangement (which has now been dropped ?!!) to administer the Darjeeling hills. 

Today, the Nari Morcha, the party’s women wing, started its three day rally — but tomorrow’s meeting has been suspended because of the homage to Father Burns — in the hills and the Dooars and Terai. 

Immediately after the women’s rallies, the two affiliates of the party, the Janmukti Karmachari Sangathan and the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan, will take over the agitation for the next three days. They will be followed by similar programmes by the Yuva Morcha, the youth wing, from May 24 to 26. 

Gorkha Supremo Bimal Gurung at Delo on Tuesday - the only way forward ?!!

 

Members of the Nari Morcha took out a rally through the streets of the town in the morning, shouting slogans in favour of Gorkhaland, and denouncing the alleged atrocities being committed against the Gorkhas in Meghalaya. In fact, the women wing had organised its three-day protest to condemn the police firing that left four Nepali-speaking persons dead on the Assam-Meghalaya border and also subsequently the “quit notice” served on Gorkhas living in a particular area of Shillong. 

Morcha president Bimal Gurung, who is camping at Deolo, about 5km from here, said the extended protest programme was being held to intensify the movement for Gorkhaland. “All the people must come forward and provide strength to the movement. The opposition, too, should focus on the main issue.” 

ex ABGL Darjeeling Chief, PK Chettri now joins GJM - ABGL objectives wrong !! (New Local Channel TV)

 

Gurung was talking to reporters at a programme to announce the induction of P.K. Chhetri, a subdivisional (Past president of Darjeeling Unit ?!!) leader of the ABGL, into the Morcha. (Televised reasons for leaving the ABGL and disillusions with it, conveniently omitted ?!!) 

The Morcha chief had recently entrusted the responsibility of overseeing the functioning of the Kalimpong unit of the party with general secretary Roshan Giri and assistant secretary Binay Tamang. He had also replaced the office-bearers of the Nari Morcha’s Kalimpong branch with a five-member committee to stem the infighting among the unit leaders. 

Priest Dies – Bengal Media focus on Darjeeling sentiments awry, how about Mother Teresa ?!! 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BRIEFS  

Darjeeling, May 17, 2010: Father Burns, a Canadian Jesuit and a well-known social worker who had set up Burns Gram and established Hayden Hall, passed away on Monday evening. He was 86.The funeral will take place on Wednesday. 

AND THEN THE NEXT DAY – AN ADJOINER 

Homage to Burns 

Father Edgar Peter Burns - to always rest in Peace ?!!

 

The Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha has decided to suspend its rally and public meeting tomorrow to pay homage to Father Edgar Peter Burns, a Canadian Jesuit and a social worker, who died in Darjeeling last evening. 

The body of Father Burns was kept at Hayden Hall today and will be taken tomorrow to St Joseph’s School (North Point) chapel at 10am. 

The three-day programme of the Nari Morcha, which was to conclude on May 20, will now end on May 21. The ABGL, which was scheduled to hold its foundation day programme at Chowk Bazaar tomorrow, had postponed its meeting to May 21 because of the Morcha rally. Given the situation it is unlikely that the ABGL will be able to hold its programme on the revised date. (or any other date ?!!) 

Governor on holiday in Darjeeling, to meet GJM team today  news facts askew,  GJM moves to Kalimpong, hopes of those for Justice and Peace now numbed, our Governor humbly understands ?!! 

His Excellency Darjeeling Governor MK Narayanan in Darjeeling - a working vacation ?!!

 

FROM THE EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE 

Kolkata, May 18, 2010: With the Gorkhaland talks stuck over the issue of territory, Governor M K Narayanan, who reached Darjeeling yesterday to spend his summer vacation, is set to receive a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) delegation on Tuesday. 

Yesterday, the governor, who is a former national security adviser, called a meeting of the DM, SP and senior district officials to make an assessment of the law and order situation there. 

“We may meet him tomorrow,” Morcha assistant general secretary Amar Lama said, refusing to divulge more. The outfit has called a 10-day bandh from June 12 to June 21 to press for its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. 

Yesterday, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said since the Governor was the constitutional head of the state, he could mediate in any matter he liked. 

Meanwhile, the proposed political-level talks among the GJM, the state government and the Centre, scheduled to be held on May 25, stands cancelled. 

While the GJM has already said it would not attend it, state Home Secretary Samar Ghosh today said, “The meeting is not going to be held.” 

In a related development, a three-day bandh began in the Dooars region of north Bengal on call given by Adivasi Bikas Unnayan Parishad, which demanded that the questions for primary school teachers’ examination due to be held soon be set in Adivasi languages like Alchiki. 

Sporadic clashes took place in Malbajaar area of Dooars between the two groups but police soon intervened and the matter was resolved. 

AND THEN, THE NEXT DAY… 

Hill rivals pin hopes on Raj Bhavan – Morcha to meet governor today – and ABGL keeps working only towards empowering Bengal, forgets the root cause and  issue of the movement, worthy only of contempt ?!!  

Madan Tamang comes out of the Raj Bhawan after meeting the governor on Tuesday - smug smite and one up-manship on all the Gorkha aspirations ?!! (Photo by Suman Tamang)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT 

Darjeeling, May 18: A delegation of the Democratic Front, a seven-party coalition in the hills, met the governor here today and sought his intervention to end the current imbroglio in the Darjeeling hills and the high-handedness of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. 

The Morcha will meet him tomorrow, its general secretary said. 

The front claimed that the governor, who is here on a vacation, has taken a keen interest in the Darjeeling issue and has promised the outfits another audience. 

Governor M.K. Narayanan is no stranger to the Gorkhaland issue and many in the hills consider him one of the key backstage players in the negotiations that led to the signing of the DGHC Accord in 1988. He was then the chief of the Intelligence Bureau. 

Recently, Vijay Madan, the interlocutor of the talks between the Centre, state and the Morcha, had met him at the Raj Bhavan in Calcutta and briefed him on the situation in the Darjeeling hills. 

On Sunday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said the governor could always take the initiative to solve the Darjeeling impasse, but had also added that he was not aware of any such move. 

“The talks went on for more than an hour and he wants to meet us for another round. We discussed all issues concerning Darjeeling and he showed a great deal of interest,” said Dawa Sherpa, the state secretary of the BJP and the convener of the front. 

Elaborating on the discussions, ABGL president Madan Tamang said: “We apprised him of the water problem, lack of democracy, corruption and the state government’s role in fuelling the Darjeeling fire. The talks were very fruitful.” 

Shakuntala Chettri, Tara Chettri's wife pressured - what non-sense ?!!

 

The front also consists of the CPRM, the second largest party in the hills. “We need Gorkhaland but before that we need democracy,” said R.B. Rai, the general secretary of the CPRM, referring to the Morcha’s “muscle-flexing” in the hills. “We also told him about the recent death (of the GNLF leader Tikaram Chhetri) in Kalimpong and how the family is being pressured to withdraw the FIR (filed by the GNLF in Siliguri after which raids began in Kalimpong ?!!),” added Tamang. (What about the Kalimpong Police thana not accepting the FIR in Kalimpong submitted by Shakuntala Chettri here – no mention of illegality of  KL Tamta’s actions ?!!) 

Chhetri succumbed to his injuries two days after he was beaten up by a group of youths on May 13. The GNLF alleged that the Morcha was behind the attack. 

The hills are, however, looking forward to the Morcha meeting with the governor. Party general secretary Roshan Giri said: “We will meet him tomorrow at 3.45pm. Banks will be allowed to remain open on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.” The Morcha has shut down all government offices in the hills. 

Tomorrow’s meeting is significant as the current negotiations between the Morcha, state and the Centre on the interim arrangement for the hills have virtually fallen through on the territory issue. 

The Morcha wants Siliguri, the Terai (Darjeeling District or not ?!!) and parts of the (Gorkha dominated) Dooars to be made part of the interim set-up. According to the Morcha, the territorial jurisdiction of the interim set-up will later form the boundary of the separate state of Gorkhaland. 

The government, however, wants the interim set-up to be limited to the hills. (Another unconstitutional DGHC, tried & tested before ?!!) 

Asked if the front had raised the interim set-up issue at the meeting, Sherpa said: “The people who are demanding the set-up should be raising the issue. It seems that they (Morcha) too are giving up on the set-up.” 

Tamang added that the set-up would be an alternative to the DGHC and that only the board would be interim (till the Assembly elections are over). “I do not think that the set-up will be interim. The set-up will be an alternative to the DGHC and the board will be interim, which virtually means that there would be no election but only a selection to run the set-up.” 

The front has already “rejected” the interim set-up and has maintained that Gorkhaland cannot be compromised. 

Sikkim contempt petition – difficult to prove, but situation to get better or worse between neighbours ?!! 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT 

Gangtok, May 18: Advocate OP Bhandari today said he would file an “urgent” contempt of court petition in the Supreme Court as 11 Sikkim-bound vehicles were vandalised on NH31A during the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-sponsored strike on May 15 and 16. 

Bhandari had approached the apex court in 2005 seeking its intervention to keep the national highway, the lifeline of Sikkim, free from political disturbances. Three years later, he filed a fresh petition, making the Morcha, political organisations based in Siliguri and the central, Bengal and the Sikkim governments party to the case. 

On July 3, 2008, the Supreme Court asked the Centre, Bengal and the Sikkim government to “take whatever measures are necessary to ensure free traffic movement and undisturbed movement of people” on NH31A. As the situation remained almost the same even two years later, the court on January 25 warned the “respondents” of “serious consequences” if they flout the earlier directive. 

Bhandari today said: “I will leave for New Delhi tomorrow and ask my counsel to lodge an urgent contempt of court petition with the vacation bench of the court.” 

The lawyer said he had filed an “ordinary” petition after six vehicles had been damaged by unidentified groups along the highway on February 18. “But this time I will file an urgent petition with additional documents on the disruption of traffic on NH31A again.” 

Bhandari, the officer on special duty (legal) attached with the chief minister’s office, however, said he would file the petition as a Sikkimese. “We will be praying that the Supreme Court directives over the highway should be implemented and Sikkim remains free from highway blockades,” he said. 

Resolution of Hill impasse depends on State’s will GJMM – geared to bring Peace or Anarchy as it did in Lalgarh  ?!! 

FROM THE STATESMAN 

Siliguri, 17 May: A day after the state urban development minister Mr Asok Bhattacharya blamed the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) for the latest deadlock in the Darjeeling negotiation process, the GJMM today hit back saying that a solution to the Darjeeling impasse now completely depends on the political will of the state government. 

“The Centre is in total conformity with our demand for attaching the Gorkha-dominated areas of Siliguri, Terai and the Dooars in the proposed ‘interim’ administrative set-up for Darjeeling. But the ball is now in the state’s court. 

The state government can makeup its mind whether it wants a solution to the Hill imbroglio or was eager to extract political mileage by succumbing to the popular Bengali sentiment,” the GJMM spokesperson Mr Harka Bahadur Chhetri said today. 

Adding, the GJMM leader further said that it was the Centre and not the GJMM, which had proposed the ‘interim’ set-up for Darjeeling before the creation of Gorkhaland in future. 

“The Centre had first put forward the proposal and after much deliberation, we had agreed to accept the ‘interim’ set-up, provided that more powers and areas are bestowed in it. But if the state government is adamant not to concede us new areas, then we too are not ready to go for a settlement and rather would carry forward the Gorkhaland agitation in a more vigorous way,” Mr Chhetri warned. 

The GJMM leadership is also blaming the urban development minister for “indulging in anti-GJMM propaganda campaign.” SNS 

GNLF to raise force to counter Morcha – impossible, brothers fighting brothers, politically mature ?!!  

CK Pradhan inspects the newly formed GVC militants in 1987 after 27th July massacre in Kalimpong - Bengal pushing Gorkhas towards militancy again ?!! (Himal News File Photo)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT 

Siliguri, May 17: The GNLF has decided to raise a 10,000-strong voluntary force to “protect its supporters from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha”. 

Rajen Mukhia, the convener of the GNLF’s Terai branch committee, said the decision to create a force had been prompted by the death of the party’s Kalimpong branch leader Tikaram Chhetri in an attack last week. The party alleged that the Morcha was behind the murder. 

“Keeping in view the current state of affairs in the hills and the state government’s ineffectiveness in controlling the law and order situation, we have decided to raise a voluntary force. We will wait till May 30 to see what steps the government will take to ensure the safety of opposition workers in the hills. We will set up our own force, which will work for self-defence. We have already spoken to our branch committee members in all the three hill subdivisions and the process has already set in motion,” Mukhia said today. 

GNLF supporters today organised a silent rally at Panighata, about 40km from here, in memory of Chhetri who had been attacked on May 13 and succumbed to his injuries at a nursing home here two days later. 

The GNLF had formed the Gorkha Volunteer Cell (GVC) in mid-80s when the party had first spearheaded a movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland. “We will create a force with 10,000 members who will be picked up from the age group of 18-45. It will be similar to the GVC,” said Mukhia. 

At present, the Morcha and the CPRM — the first and second largest parties in the hills — have voluntary forces. The Morcha’s Gorkhaland Personnel has been active for more than a year, engaging themselves in traffic regulation and crowd control during rallies and at times acting as a parallel police force. The CPRM unveiled its Swyam Sevak Bahini during the recent May Day celebration. 

GNLF sources said the party chief, Subash Ghisingh, had not initially supported the formation of such a force. But Ghisingh gave his consent to the idea when members from the Terai and the hills met him at his rented house in Jalpaiguri on May 13. 

“We have told him about our plan and I don’t want to divulge much about our future programme,” Mukhia said when asked if he had informed Ghisingh about the plan. 

K.L.Tamta, the inspector general of police, north Bengal, said: “I have heard about the GNLF move to create a force and we are keeping a close watch on it. But regarding their grievances against police, I would like to say whenever we receive complaints, we investigate and act accordingly.” 

MEANWHILE FROM THE PLAINS OF DARJEELING 

DOOARS POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Cops cajole tribals to return – preferential treatment with a political agenda ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU 

Siliguri/Alipurduar, May 18: The Dooars remained closed today as the 72-hour strike called by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad entered its second day. 

Police could successfully persuade bandh supporters out to hold rallies to return to their homes at two places. 

Around 10am, about 1,000 Parishad supporters of Denguajhar Tea Estate and nearby gardens started marching towards Jalpaiguri to demonstrate at the District Primary School Council (DPSC) office. The strike has been called to demand a reduction in the cut-off percentage for tribal students appearing for the recruitment test for primary schoolteachers. 

The police stopped the procession at Gosala More near Jalpaiguri by raising a barricade. The Parishad members shouted slogans and tried to break the barricade, but were stopped by a patient force. 

“We were stopped by the police while on way to Jalpaiguri town to voice our protest against the recruitment process of the DPSC,” said Budhuram Oraon, the president of the Parishad’s Jalpaiguri Sadar block. “As we are carrying out our movement in a democratic manner, we did not resort to violence and held a meeting on the road.” 

Around 1.30pm, the Parishad members began returning to the tea estates, much to the relief of the police. 

A similar incident was reported at Kranti in Malbazar block, where around 3,000 Parishad members had assembled to hold a rally. The police intervened and stopped the protesters. 

The strike was total in Malbazar, Metelli, Nagrakata, Birpara-Madarihat, Kalchini and Kumargram blocks. 

A few shops opened at Damdim, Banarhat and Shamuktala, but in most places, traders decided to wait till 6pm when the 12-hour relaxation began. 

Like yesterday, admit cards for the primary schoolteachers’ exam could not be distributed from the 10 branches of Uttar Banga Kshetriya Gramin Bank in the Dooars. 

“We decided to distribute the admit cards from our Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar branches on May 24 and 25,” said a senior bank official. 

Kiron Kalindi, the adviser to the Parishad, said: “Hundreds of ST youths have been deprived of jobs by the DPSC which has fixed a high cut-off percentage. A meeting will be held on May 20 to decide on further course of action as we are not going to give up the issue.” 

Stranded and made to pay more as well – Bhutan visitors worry tour operators – 500 forced to stay back in Pshuentsholing – want to remain under Bengal’s parochialism ?!! 

Parishad supporters block NH31D at Gosala More on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri town on Monday. (Photo by Biplab Basak)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT  

Siliguri, May 17: Hundreds of tourists visiting north Bengal, Bhutan and Sikkim remained stranded at several places in the Dooars today, while others desperate to reach their destinations on time forked out four times the normal taxi fare as the spate of strikes in the region continued. 

Several tourists hired vehicles from Siliguri for as much as Rs 5,000 — the normal rate is usually Rs 1,500 — for the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim. 

Today the brunt was borne mostly by those passing through the Dooars, where the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has called a 72-hour bandh starting today to protest alleged irregularities in the appointment of primary school teachers. The outfit, which has a considerable support base in the Dooars, wants the cut-off marks for appearing for the recruitment test for teachers to be lowered so that more Adivasi youths can apply for the job. 

“We have specific information that several tourists are stranded in Phuentsholing while on way to Darjeeling or Sikkim from Bhutan. The converse (those who were coming back) also holds true,” said Raj Basu, the working president of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association. “If the strike continues for the next two days (as scheduled), it seems we will have to take the help of the administration to bring the tourists from Phuentsholing to Siliguri like it was done in Sikkim yesterday. 

Basu was referring to the police escort on NH31A for tourists returning from Sikkim. 

Late in the evening, the Parishad announced that the bandh would be relaxed from 6pm tomorrow to 6am (the day after). 

“In the forest bungalows and destinations in the Dooars like Jaldapara, people are either sitting idle because they are confined or making trips within the sanctuary area. It is not possible for them even to visit nearby forests like Chilapata or Buxa,” Basu added. 

According to the tour operators, more than 500 tourists are stranded in Phuentsholing — a border town of Bhutan. “We arrived here from Paro yesterday and we were supposed to go to Gangtok today,” said Sanjoy Kumar, who has come from Mumbai with his family, over the phone. “But when we reached the Jaigaon gate (to cross over to the Indian side), we were told of the strike and had to stay back in Phuentsholing. We have no clue as to what to do as we have heard that the strike will continue for the next two days.” 

Tourists who were stranded at New Jalpaiguri station, Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminus or in different hotels here — because of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s weekend bandh — while on way to the hills and Sikkim found it tough to get vehicles at reasonable rates. 

“They had to pay exorbitant rates like Rs 5,000 or so to go to Gangtok and Darjeeling as there was an acute shortage of vehicles. Even we had to arrange vehicles at rates four times the normal for our clients,” said Samrat Sanyal, a tour operator in Siliguri. “It was surprising that there was no administrative intervention or effort to help the tourists and ensure that they pay rational rates, particularly when it is known that after three days of strike, there would surely be a shortage of vehicles.” 

Sanyal said most tourist were headed for Gangtok and other places in Sikkim with a few moving towards Darjeeling, which was off-limits this weekend. 

The Morcha had called a 48-hour strike in the hills and the Terai and some parts of the Dooars to mount pressure on the government to make these areas part of the proposed interim set-up for the hills. On Friday, an anti-Morcha outfit in the plains, the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee, had called a 24-hour strike across the state. 

Uday Saha, secretary of the Darjeeling District Taxi and Private Car Drivers’ Union, admitted the rush of vehicles to the hills today. “We cannot, however, comment on the alleged exorbitant rates as most of our members run vehicles that are controlled by pre-paid booths where the rates are fixed,” he said. 

The general secretary of Siliguri Taxi Owners’ Association, Kalam Khawas, however, said there had been a rise in the fares. “Excessive rush of tourists, coupled with shortage of vehicles as several taxis from Siliguri were stranded in the hills and reached here this afternoon, has led to increase in fares or rental charges today,” he said. 

Bank ransack on Day 1 of strike – no money looted ?!! 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU 

Siliguri/Alipurduar, May 17: A bank distributing admit cards for primary schoolteachers’ entrance exam was ransacked and road blockades were raised at different places in the Dooars on the first day of a 72-hour strike called by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad. 

When the Kranti branch of Uttar Banga Kshetriya Gramin Bank in Malbazar block opened this morning and the employees started distributing admit cards to candidates, a rally of Parishad supporters reached the bank. The protesters demanded that the distribution be stopped and an altercation broke out between them and the bank officials. Some bandh supporters entered the office and ransacked furniture. 

As the candidates also protested the vandalism, another round of scuffle broke out. The Parishad supporters fled the spot when police reached there. 

“We have 16 branches in Jalpaiguri district and 10 of them could not function today,” said Tapan Kumar Dey, the Gramin Bank’s area manager for Jalpaiguri district. 

Around 8.15am, Parishad supporters hailing from tea estates like Denguajhar, Raipur and Karala Valley, all located on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri, blocked NH31D at Gosala More for two hours until a huge police force rushed to the spot. The police arrested 91 bandh supporters, and cleared the highway. 

Parishad leaders said they had resorted to peaceful demonstration on the highway. “The police arrested 91 of our supporters without any provocation,” said Pushna Oraon, the Jalpaiguri Sadar block president of the Parishad-affiliated Progressive Tea Workers’ Union. “We are at the Kotwali police station and will not leave unless all our supporters are released,” he added. 

The strike, administrative sources said, had crippled life in Malbazar, Metelli and Nagrakata and parts of Dhupguri, Birpara-Madarihat, Kalchini, Kumargram, Falakata and Alipurduar. 

Traders had said yesterday that they would oppose the strike and keep their shops open, but there was no sign of defiance on the part of the business community today. “The strike was total and successful throughout the Dooars,” said John Barla, the president of the Dooars-Terai regional unit of the Parishad. 

Anand Kumar, the superintendent of police of Jalpaiguri, confirmed the arrest of 91 people in Jalpaiguri. “At Kranti, some bandh supporters vandalised the bank to stop the distribution of admit cards. This was followed by a clash between the candidates and the Parishad supporters. Our men reached there and brought the situation under control. However, no untoward has been reported in other parts of the Dooars.” 

Congress Test Case in North – any empathy, too much to hope for from Didi ?!! 

Mamata Banerjee at a civic poll rally in Calcutta on Monday where she dubbed Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee “a blot on Left politics” and said her politics needed no certificate from him. The chief minister had on Sunday described Trinamul as a “violent, lawless and coercive party” - next to turn on the Gorkhas too ?!! (Photo by Amit Datta)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY BARUN GHOSH 

Calcutta, May 17: The collapse of the alliance with Mamata Banerjee has presented a challenge before the Congress even in its citadels like Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Malda and Murshidabad. 

In 2009, all the six Lok Sabha seats the Congress won were from the north Bengal districts. 

This time, it had almost stitched up the alliance with the Trinamul Congress in seven municipalities across Malda, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri when the alliance fell through following Mamata’s refusal to give more than 25 wards to her ally in the 141-ward Calcutta Municipal Corporation. 

“Barring Murshidabad (where six municipalities are going to the polls), the alliance with Trinamul was almost final in north Bengal. But Mamata’s unilateral move to snap the alliance in Calcutta prompted our leaders in north Bengal to field candidates against Trinamul nominees,” said state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya. 

The Congress is now fighting its ally to retain its pockets of domination in the 13 civic boards across north Bengal. 

The region is crucial for the Congress because that is where its strength lies. Bhattacharya said if the party could reaffirm its grip on north Bengal, “we would be in a position to enter a hard bargain with Mamata over seat-sharing for the Assembly polls”. 

“A good showing will also allow us to give a fitting reply to Mamata’s humiliating offer in Calcutta,” a Congress source added. 

However, it is easier said than done with Trinamul gnawing at the Congress’s citadel. 

“Going by the overwhelming response to our campaign for change, we are optimistic about all 13 municipalities,” said Trinamul’s north Bengal convener Gautam Deb. 

Of the four municipalities going to the polls in Cooch Behar, the Congress controls one — Cooch Behar. The others — Dinhata, Toofanganj and Mathabhanga — are with the Left. 

Much has happened in Bengal politics since the 2005 civic polls, though. 

“Despite our strong presence in Cooch Behar and Dinhata, we are facing a tough contest from Trinamul nominees in all four municipalities. Even in a Left bastion like Mathabhanga, Trinamul has two councillors in the CPM-controlled board,” said district Congress president Biren Kundu. 

In the 2006 Assembly polls, Trinamul had snatched the Dinhata seat from the Left. 

In Jalpaiguri, the Congress controls Jalpaiguri municipality, but Trinamul hopes to cash in on its infighting. “We shall also use our victory in the adjoining Rajganj Assembly seat in 2006 as a plank,” said Jalpaiguri Trinamul president K.K. Kalyani. 

In Malda, the Congress and Trinamul together run the Englishbazar municipality, while the Left controls Old Malda. 

“This time, we are confronting Trinamul in both municipalities,” said Congress district president and Malda South MP A.H. Khan Chowdhury. 

In Murshidabad, Trinamul has for the first time fielded candidates for all 103 wards in the six civic bodies — Murshidabad, Kandi, Beldanga, Jiaganj-Azimganj, Jangipur and Dhulian. The Congress here controls Murshidabad and Kandi while the Left controls the remaining four. 

“To be able to field so many candidates in Murshidabad is itself a proof of our strength,” said Utpal Pal, Trinamul’s district youth president. 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: