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CPM attempts facelift

Calcutta, Feb. 16: The CPM has decided to take on Mamata Banerjee in areas she considers her stronghold.

The ruling party, which tasted defeat in a number of seats in Calcutta and South and North 24-Parganas in the 2001 elections, has sensed that the Trinamul Congress’s grip on the city and its adjoining districts has weakened since.

This time, it has brought in over 30 new faces to make the best of what it considers a “strategic advantage” in the coming polls.

For the “image makeover”, the CPM has dropped quite a few sitting MLAs and replaced them with candidates who are “young and dynamic”. “We want to infuse fresh blood into our party and our target is to get 260 seats,” Left Front chairman Biman Bose said.

The Bengal Assembly has 294 seats.

The CPM has been spurred by the results of the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, when it bagged two seats in Calcutta, and the fact that it managed to wrest the Calcutta Municipal Corporation from Trinamul last year.

The party has decided to field new candidates in Behala West, Cossipore, Manicktala, Alipore, Chowringhee, Bowbazar and Tollygunge.

Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim has been shifted from Amdanga to Entally as he won the 2001 polls by a wafer-thin margin of 64 votes. In Alipore, the CPM has decided to field an actor against an actor ' Biplab Chatterjee against Trinamul’s sitting MLA Tapas Paul.

In Cossipore, CPM nominee Salil Chatterjee, who had been a borough chairman, is likely to put up a strong fight against sitting Trinamul legislator Tarak Bandopadhyaya.

Rupa Bagchi, CPM councillor for two consecutive terms from ward 32, was a unanimous choice for the Manicktala seat as the CPM wanted “a fresh, vibrant and effective” person to take on Trinamul sitting MLA Paresh Pal. Three wards from Manicktala were wrested by the Left from Trinamul in the civic polls.

Of the 25 seats in South 24-Parganas, the CPM tasted defeat at the hands of Trinamul in 14 constituencies, while the Opposition party wrested eight seats in North 24-Parganas.

Realising that growing infighting might cost the party dear in the elections, top leaders, including Jyoti Basu and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, held half a dozen meetings with district leaders in their efforts to sink differences.

“We had to put in our maximum effort in South and North 24-Parganas to retrieve lost ground,” Basu said after attending one such meeting.

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