The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Express lane to vote bank

Siliguri, Feb. 21: It will surely take the region more than three years to realise the benefits of the East-West corridor.

But with the Assembly polls less than three months away, political parties seem to be the immediate beneficiaries of the NHAI's latest announcement. In a complete win-win situation, the new route will touch upon both Siliguri and Jalpaiguri.

While this certainly brings the two warring towns and therefore CPM MLA Asok Bhattacharya and MP Minati Sen, closer, the four-lane expressway will be the road that everyone will take to reach out to the vote bank.

'It will definitely be an election issue,' said Jalpaiguri MP Minati Sen, the first political leader to raise a formal protest against the NHAI's previous proposal and demand an alternative route through Jalpaiguri, earning the wrath her own party and comrade Bhattacharya.

The minister, always accused of favouritism towards Siliguri at the cost of Jalpaiguri, had openly sided with the Malbazaar-based Dooars East West Corridor Movement Committee. Though he claimed it was for the sake of the residents of the Dooars, his critics alleged it was obviously for Siliguri, which stood chances of being bypassed if the NHAI changed plans. Today he told The Telegraph: 'I will agree to whatever the centre and state decide. But it would have been better, if the alignment had been through the Dooars.'

Past is past, and like true politicians, both Bhattacharya and Sen, now say there were no differences between them 'ever'. 'It was all the creation of the media,' Sen said.

In Jalpaiguri, the Congress may take the cake away from the CPM. A PIL filed in 2003 in the Supreme Court by B.P. Roy, the president of Jalpaiguri Sangrami Mancha (JSM), was the first legal protest against the NHAI proposal. Roy, who is being projected as a Congress candidate for the polls, stands to benefit from it.

But according to Roy: 'Since it is the victory of the JSM, an apolitical body, it would be unethical for the party to claim credit for it.' Some Congress leaders in Jalpaiguri, however, said the party would make the most of this 'landmark victory'.

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