The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mahajot springs before poll

April 15: A day before the last date for filing of nominations for the panchayat elections, reports of the formation of an anti-CPM mahajot (grand alliance) started pouring in from across the state.

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress has tied up with the Congress and “like-minded parties” against the ruling communists in South 24-Parganas. Party sources said some district leaders had also forged alliances with dissident members of the RSP, a constituent of the Left Front, and the SUCI.

Mamata had earlier issued a whip against any poll pact with the Congress but realpolitik at the grassroots level held sway.

“We were left with no option but to put up a united fight to ensure the defeat of the CPM, which had unleashed terror in the locality,” said Trinamul leader Satya Bapuli.

He had recently floated an anti-CPM forum in the Mathurapur area of South 24-Parganas. The forum has put up a sizeable number of candidates to humble the Marxists in the hustings, Bapuli said today. “A clearer picture will emerge by tomorrow, the last date for filing of nominations,” he added.

Echoing Bapuli, the Trinamul spokesman in the district, Sakti Mondal, said the party felt the forum “was necessary to fight an outfit like the CPM”.

“But we have reservations about the party giving up nearly 60 per cent seats to the Congress as part of the forum’s ‘policy’. We could have bargained for more seats as we have a strong support base here,” said Mondal.

Reacting to the “grand alliance”, CPM secretary of South 24-Parganas Shantimoy Bhattacharya said the party was not too concerned. “We are confident of retaining the seats in which we have put up candidates. The so-called grand alliance is nothing but an opportunistic entente, the electorate will reject it,” he said.

Asked about the RSP’s participation in the alliance, he refused to comment. “The matter would be taken up at the front level,” he said.

The Trinamul-BJP combine has also teamed up with the Congress in Hooghly. Officials said the tie-up was in place in eight gram panchayats of Chanditala.

Trinamul district president and MP from Serampore Akbar Ali Khondakar pleaded helplessness and said he could do little if party workers at the grassroots formed alliances with the Congress to oppose the CPM. “The CPM is our main enemy in Bengal and that is why party workers are desperate to tie up with the Congress, even defying the party whip,” he said.

The beleaguered Congress sounded jubilant. “We cannot afford to put up candidates in many places because of paucity of funds and lack of organisational strength. It is much better if we can forge alliances with Trinamul to fight the CPM,” said Jyoti Chowdhury, the Congress president in Hooghly.

In Burdwan, Trinamul intends to field common candidates against the Marxists in Baraboni. Trinamul legislator Manik Updhaya said: “It is absolutely necessary to forge an alliance with the Congress if we have to fight the CPM’s election machinery.”

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