All leaders of the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) in Siliguri are slogging it out to lay hands on the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC), which was under the Congress and the Left Front in the last two terms, even though Mamata Banerjee and her party came to power in the state in the year 2011.
While the AITC Siliguri district president, Papiya Ghosh, today claimed that there was only “one candidate and one face of candidates” in all the 47 wards in Siliguri, who is the party supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee, senior TMC leader as well as former minister and mayoral candidate Gautam Deb said, “Siliguri Ebaar Didi-k Chay Siliguri wants Mamata Di this time) for development here, with proper coordination with the state government.”
Rebel leader arrested : On the other hand, the Siliguri police today arrested a rebel AITC youth leader, Bikash Sarkar, who has been terminated by state Yuba Trinamool president Sayani Ghosh recently after he failed to withdraw his nomination for the SMC elections as an independent candidate despite the party’s request. Mr Sakar has filed his nomination to contest the polls in ward 24.
TMC complaint against CPM leader: Also today, a senior AITC leader and candidate of ward 45 Bedabrata Datta filed a complaint with the Returning Officer for the SMC polls and Sub Divisional Officer against a senior CPI-M leader and former mayor, Munshi Nurul Islam, who is contesting the elections in the same ward on a CPI-M ticket. Mr Datta has alleged that Mr Islam “concealed facts and provided incorrect information on the solemn oath in the election process with malafide intent.”
To counter the TMC, former Darjeeling district CPIM secretary Jibesh Sarkar talked to the Press and protested the AITC candidate’s “attack on Islam at the personal level.” Cong manifesto released On the other hand, after the CPI-M-led Left and the BJP, the Congress party today released its manifesto and criticized the role of the AITC in the last seven months in Siliguri. Darjeeling district Congress president Shankar Malakar directly criticized Mr Deb, who was at the helm of the SMC as the chairman of the Board of Administrators until the elections were announced.
TMC manifesto soon: However, Mr Deb, addressing the Press today, claimed that his party would release the SMC poll manifesto soon. He said they were awaiting approval of the same from the party’s state leadership. Highlighting his role as the chairman of the BoA for the SMC, and the performance in the last seven months, Mr Deb presented a report card, which he said would be circulated among the Siliguri people as part of the party’s poll campaign. Mr Deb also hinted that the manifesto was based on the experiences in the last seven months and future plans to bring in more development in the town.
“There is a big announcement related to Siliguri’s drinking water issue. I will be able to shed light on it only after the approval of our manifesto,” Mr Deb said. While Mr Deb criticised both Asok Bhattacharya for supporting the Congress indirectly in 2009 when Gangotri Datta was elected the mayor, and then the Congress when it backed Mr Bhattacharya in becoming the mayor, Congress leader, Mr Malakar, claimed that Mr Deb had created trouble to make the SMC board unstable when the Congress came to power, and that he tried to break the elected councilors’ party unity.
Congress slams Siliguri gate decision: Mr Malakar also criticized Mr Deb’s decision to build the Siliguri Gate. “Gautam Deb’s decision to build the Siliguri Gate by spending crores of government funds was nothing but misuse of funds and to provide money to land mafia as the minister for North Bengal Development Department. Had he allotted the same funds for the construction of an over-bridge at Mallaguri to ease traffic congestion at Darjeeling More, Siliguri people would have heaved a sigh of relief,” Mr Malakar said.
Notably, the Congress in its manifesto has mentioned employment generation, basic services, health centres, community hall and parks in each ward, public toilets, especially for women, drainage system and problem of waterlogging and dumping grounds, among other issues. Meanwhile, amid a war of words, a terminated TMC leader Bikash Sarkar, the Independent candidate for ward 24, staged a sit-in demonstration in front of the Siliguri police station, demanding police action against culprits, who have been damaging his election posters and banners. Police dragged him to the lock-up immediately after he started staging the protest.
Official candidate of the AITC in the ward, Pratul Chakraborty, denied the allegations leveled by Mr Sarkar against ruling party activists and said that the police will investigate the matter. Speaking to the media, Mr Sarkar said: “Only I can take on the BJP candidate Shankar Ghosh, the MLA from Siliguri. But my party, by nominating another candidate, has indirectly helped the BJP candidate.
Despite that, I will fight unto death.” On the complaint against the senior CPIM candidate, veteran CPM leader Jibesh Sarkar said: “Leaving the way of political fight, a Trinamool candidate has attacked our party worker and leader Munshi Nurul Islam, who is contesting from ward 45, at the personal level. His statement is in bad taste, indecorous, untrue and ill- motivated to create confusion among the people. His statement is also shameful for the TMC.”
Asked to comment later, Mr Datta said: “I did not say anything. I just lodged a complaint with the returning officer based on affidavits submitted in the past and present with documents and evidences. I asked how a party whole timer became a businessman and a social worker. I asked for sources of his income, based on the present affidavit, in becoming the owner of properties in Kolkata and Burdwan. The copy of a purchase deed is in my possession though he has shown the property as gifted.” “I should abstain from attacking Jibesh Sarkar personally, though Siliguri people know Mr Sarkar was a bank employee in what name,” Mr Datta added.