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Greater shift in poll stance

Cooch Behar, May 8: Vote they did and in large numbers.

After branding the elections 'unconstitutional,' members and office-bearers of the Greater Cooch Behar People's Association today did a volte-face and made a beeline for the poll booths ostensibly to ensure that the anti-Left vote was not divided.

The association's decision has set off the alarm in the Left Front camp with the supporters of the Greater Cooch Behar movement stating that they had rallied behind the Opposition.

Left Front leaders like Kamal Guha appeared worried about the large turnout of the association members. The veteran leader isn't contesting from Dinhata, but his son Udayan is.

Association convener Bhabesh Barman said members had cast their vote in favour of candidates from the Trinamul Congress, Congress and the BJP in all nine constituencies of the district. Association sources said they were banking on defeating the Front in at least five seats.

The association claims to have the support of anywhere between 1 lakh and 1.5 lakh voters out of Cooch Behar's total electorate of around 30 lakh.

Association secretary Bangshibadan Barman, who went into hiding yesterday, did not cast his vote for 'reasons of security'. But almost all other central committee members were seen standing in queues to vote in a shift from the association's earlier stand on the elections, which it had described as 'an illegal, anti-constitutional act'.

While Bhabesh ' whose parents were CPM panchayat members ' was at home keeping in touch with the all non-Left candidates, Kamal Guha sat in the Bloc party office in Dinhata, his face drawn and his eyes downcast. Udayan and Bloc district secretariat member Benubadal Chakrabarty, meanwhile, were found seated in the duty officer's room in the Dinhata police station.

'There are a lot of loopholes in the voting machinery this time and total mismanagement all around,' was all that Guha Senior had to offer.

Bhabesh's own village, Langalia, a known CPM bastion in Dinhata, threw up a surprise. Bhabesh's father, Khagendranath, a member of the CPM's local committee, was sitting in front of his house carrying voters' slips which had no takers.

Most of the voters preferred to take the slips from association central committee member Chakradhar Barman, sitting just a few yards away.

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