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Cong crosses swords with CPM

Calcutta, Nov. 29: The municipal elections in Behrampore, Krishnagar, Howrah and Jhargram tomorrow have boiled down to a straight contest between the ruling Left Front and the Congress, with the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine putting up a feeble fight to retain its presence in the municipalities.

While the Marxists are trying to make a dent in the Congress strongholds of Behrampore and Krishnagar, the Congress is leading the Opposition charge to dislodge the CPM from the Howrah and Jhargram civic bodies.

The CPM seems to have a tough task in Behrampore, where the Congress won all 23 seats in the 1998 civic polls under MP Adhir Chowdhury’s leadership.

Chowdhury has laid stress of development work and stability in the face of a shrill campaign led by transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and minister of state for labour Sushanta Ghosh against corruption and “misappropriation of municipal funds by the Congress board”.

In a surcharged atmosphere where both parties have blamed each other of creating “an atmosphere of terror”, the government has made unprecedented security arrangements. Altogether 1,700 policemen will be deployed in the town tomorrow.

But the Congress MP is fearing foul play and has accused the Murshidabad district administration of “playing a partisan role to ensure the victory of some CPM nominees”.

Krishnagar, too, is a Congress stronghold where the party has won the municipal elections for three successive terms. In 1998, it captured 14 of the 24 seats with help from three Independents. The Left Front won six seats, Trinamul two and the BJP one.

The campaign ran here on the same planks, as in Behrampore, but the CPM has been more vocal against corruption here, flaunting a CAG report that mentioned diversion of municipal funds by the Congress board. A defensive Congress has tried to bypass the issue by highlighting “the positive work undertaken by the municipal board during the past five years”.

It is the CPM which is on the backfoot in Howrah, where the Opposition parties have launched a major offensive over poor civic amenities. Bad roads, coupled with frequent disruptions in water supply and health hazards due to poor sanitation, stand against the Left Front nominees. The Marxists, however, are relying on their cadre strength and better organisation to see them through.

In Jhargram, a mahajot-like combination of the Congress, Trinamul and the Jharkhand Party(N) has thrown a formidable challenge at the CPM. The Congress and Trinamul have fielded seven candidates each, while the Jharkhand Party is contesting in two wards. The combination is also supporting a dissident CPM nominee. Last time, the Left Front had won 11 of the 17 seats.

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