Malda, July 14: Trading ideology for power, the Congress today dislodged the CPM from the Malda zilla parishad with help from the BJP and the Trinamul Congress.
The Congress-led Opposition edged past the CPM-led Left Front winning 17 of the 33 votes. This is the first time in two decades that the Congress has wrested the parishad from the front in the north Bengal district.
The election was held under tight security, with forces deployed from 10 police stations. Besides the officers-in-charge, district superintendent of police Pankaj Dutta was present.
BJP district president Adhir Karmakar garlanded Congress leader Gautam Chakroborty minutes after he was elected sabhadhipati of the zilla parishad.
In a gesture symbolic of the sudden bonhomie between the sworn enemies, the Congress leader took the garland off and put it around the neck of the BJP leader. They hugged each other as supporters from both camps burst into applause.
“It is not a question of ideology, but of serving the people. We have not done anything wrong by forming the zilla parishad with the help of the BJP. People had voted out the CPM this time. We simply upheld that verdict today,” Malda district Congress president Rubi Nur said, justifying the party’s decision.
Former railway minister A.B.A.Ghani Khan Chowdhury, the Congress stalwart from Malda, defended the decision. “It was not a Lok Sabha or Assembly election. People had wanted a change in the zilla parishad. We respected their decision.”
The Congress members in the parishad were kept confined to Khan Chowdhury’s house last night to pre-empt attempts at horse-trading.
The CPM denounced the Congress saying the victory smacked of “opportunism”.
“By joining hands with the BJP, the Congress today proved once again that it does not want to confront the communal forces,” CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said at a rally in Behrampore. “It’s an extension of the party’s soft Hindutva line.”
Minutes after the Congress emerged victorious, the CPM took out a rally here to condemn the “axis of evil.”
“The Congress speaks of secularism all the time, but it’s a slogan to get votes. In reality, they are at one with the communal forces in the country,” CPM district secretary Jiban Moitra said.
Karmakar said the BJP decided to support the Congress to keep the CPM away. “We had no problems supporting the Congress. They had actually called us a communal party,” he said.
Trinamul district president Krishnendu Chowdhury said his party supported the Congress to “save people from a reign of terror unleashed” by the CPM. “We had never looked at the zilla parishad election as an ideological issue.”
The 15 Congress members came to the parishad in a motorcade around 11 in the morning, with Ghani Khan travelling in his Mercedes in front.
Supporters erupted in slogans as the members got off from two Toyota Qualises. Ghani Khan went on to the circuit house, where he waited till the results were announced.
The BJP and Trinamul members, Biswajit Sinha and Sushanta Sarkar, entered the zilla parishad building flanked by leaders of their parties.