STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Malda, 21 July
Even after bitterly losing in English Bazaar Assembly by-polls and though several redoubtable leaders have left the party, the district Congress leaders are still quite confident of retaining Malda Zilla Parishad (MZP) for the third consecutive term. What makes them so confident is their strength in North Malda, where the Trinamul Congress is yet to emerge as a formidable political force.
Out of 38 seats in MZP, 24 seats are located at different blocks of North Malda and that may keep the Congress ahead of the Trinamul and the Left Front in capturing the MZP again. The North Malda Member of Parliament Ms Mausam Noor, has extensively campaigned for the Congress in this election. Moreover, unlike South Malda, no major Congress leader of North Malda has quit the Congress.
While the Congress has significantly been eroded in South Malda after people like Mr Krishnendu Choudhury and Mrs Sabitri Mitra joined the Trinamul, its strength in North Malda is almost intact as the major Congress leaders like Ratua Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Samar Mukherjee, Chanchal MLA Asif Mehbub, Old Malda MLA Arjun Haldar, Gazole MLA Sushil Roy, former Congress MLA Mostaq Alam and Mrs Noor herself are still leading the Congress from the front.
Those leaders have dedicated themselves to protect their respective citadels which may collectively benefit the Congress in retaining the MZP. On the contrary, the Trinamul is yet to find a gigantic figure in North Malda, centring whom the party could have evolved.
Interestingly, another issue has been indirectly favouring the Congress. After having an inflammation in the support-base with the joining of the grass-root Congress workers, the Trinamul has also been suffering from the factional fight heavily.
Though such factionalism has strongly been dealt with in South Malda by the strong Trinamul leaders like Mr Choudhury and Mrs Mitra, in North Malda it has gone out of control as there is dearth of commanding Trinamul leaders there.
Hence, the Congress has been expecting that it would bag large number of zilla parishad seats from North Malda which after adding to the seats won by them in South Malda would enable them to reach the desired number to win MZP for the third time.
The Trinamul leaders, who do not agree with such calculation of the Congress openly, concede that North Malda may appear to be their headache in the panchayat polls. Senior district Trinamul leader, Mr Goutam Chakraborty, however, claims that they would get at least seven zilla parishad seats alone in Chanchal I and II, Harischandrapur I and II and Ratua I block.
Trinamul Minister Krishnendu Choudhury and other Trinamul leaders have claimed that MZP would be hung this time as they would get not less than 12 seats out of 38. It signifies that the Trinamul is not confident at all of winning the MZP alone.
On the contrary, the district Congress president and Union minister of state AH Khan Choudhury sounded confident today.  “If there is no absurd swing and if the Trinamul cannot massively rig in the election, we are going to have a landslide victory in MZP,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Left Front is also expecting to win the MZP after 10 years though the political observers find the claim a feeble one. District CPI-M secretary Ambar Mitra said, “People have seen the corruption of the Congress in 10 years as well as the tyranny of the Trinamul now. Hence, if the voters are allowed to cast their votes freely, the Left Front would win MZP this time.”