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Players plenty, poll contest tight

Posted by Ramesh Khati on June 27, 2009

Siliguri, June 26: The presence of 111 Independents backed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Adivasi Vikas Parishad and the Congress-Trinamul alliance has changed the dynamics of the three-tier elections to the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad scheduled for Sunday.

Unlike earlier occasions when the contest was limited between the Left parties, the CPM in particular and the Congress, Trinamul and the BJP, this time the fight in most seats is not going to be a one-to-one.

State urban development minister and local MLA Asok Bhattacharya, however, is confident that the Congress will not be successful in opening its account in the mahakuma parishad. But he admitted that the contest would be a tough one. “The fight will definitely be tough as in the lower rungs — panchayat samities and panchayats — there have been several anti-Left alliances between the Congress, Trinamul, Morcha and the Parishad,” said Bhattacharya, who is also the Left Front convener of the district.

While the Morcha-backed candidates have filed nominations in 38 panchayat, five panchayat samiti and two mahakuma parishad seats, the Parishad has fielded 42 in panchayats, 21 in panchayat samitis and three in mahakuma parishad as Independents.

“This has changed the calculations of political parties, particularly the CPM and Congress as most of these Independents are from tea estates, where the two parties have trade unions and a base,” a political observer said.

He explained that this time, in the gardens, the Morcha and the Parishad link would be more at work than affiliation to prominent garden unions like the Intuc or the Citu. For example, the CPM cannot say this time that it will get all the votes from a tea estate having a tribal population where the Citu is the only trade union. The same stands true for the Congress. “Chances are that the tribals will vote for the Parishad member.”

Congress and Trinamul Congress leaders are confident that their alliance — though the parties have failed to strike a deal in one of the seven mahakuma parishad seats — and the results of recent parliamentary polls would help them sweep the election.

“The anti-CPM wind is strong throughout the state and north Bengal is no exception. Despite some petty differences among ourselves, we are confident that the Congress-Trinamul alliance will succeed in bagging the mahakuma parishad. Regarding the independent candidates, it is the CPM which will lose most of the votes,” said Shankar Malakar, the Darjeeling district Congress president. Gautam Deb, the district Trinamul president, echoed him.

The district administration in the meantime is busy making last minute arrangements to facilitate free and fair elections as 3,22,769 voters from four blocks get ready to cast their votes in 470 booths to elect seven members of the mahakuma parishad, 64 of panchayat samitis and 360 from panchayats.

“We are engaging more than 3,500 polling personnel,” said Surendra Gupta, the district magistrate of Darjeeling. The counting would be held on July 1 at four centres, one in each block — Naxalbari, Matgara, Kharibari and Phansidewa.

Source:The Telegraph


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