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Betrayed Trinamul plans bypoll reply

Calcutta, Oct. 5: Mamata Banerjee has sounded out party leaders in Jalpaiguri to contest two bypolls in north Bengal independently in retaliation for ally Congress’s Siliguri “betrayal”.

The seats in question are Rajgunj and Kalchini in Jalpaiguri district. Both were held by Left leaders who have become MPs.

After yesterday’s rally in Siliguri where she apologised to the people for the “betrayal” by her “greedy friends (in the Congress)”, the Trinamul chief held a closed-door meeting with party leaders from Jalpaiguri where she reportedly told them about contesting in north Bengal independently.

“Didi (as Mamata is called by many in the party) categorically told us last night that Trinamul would not concede the Rajgunj and Kalchini Assembly seats to the Congress. Instead, we will independently contest the bypolls to both the seats,” said Chandan Bhowmik, the Trinamul working president in Jalpaiguri, over the phone this afternoon.

Mamata spoke to Bhowmik, Jalpaiguri district president K.K. Kumar and some other Trinamul leaders late last night at a railway guest house in Siliguri town.

Bypolls will be held to 10 vacant seats across the state on November 7. The Election Commission announced the date today. (See chart)

Sitting legislators from nine seats were elected to the Lok Sabha.

The lone exception is the Belgachhia East Assembly seat that fell vacant when former transport minister Subhas Chakraborty passed away in August.

Five of the 10 seats were held by Trinamul legislators, two by the Congress and three by the Left.

Bhowmik said: “Didi last night sounded out the party’s Rajgunj block president Khageswar Rao that he would be nominated for the Assembly seat. He had contested the seat as a Trinamul nominee in the 2006 Assembly polls also. However, no decision was taken regarding the Kalchini seat.”

Trinamul sources, however, said former four-time RSP MP Joakim Buxla from Alipurduar, who was denied a ticket this time, is a possible nominee for Kalchini.

Buxla, who had left the RSP, has been appointed president of a Trinamul-affiliated trade union in Jalpaiguri.

In the 2006 Assembly polls, when the Congress was not its ally, Trinamul had got 60,076 votes in Rajgunj while the Congress got only 22,733.

But in Kalchini, the Congress fared better, getting 47,759 votes against Trinamul’s only 5,257.

Mamata’s decision to contest the two north Bengal seats evoked strong protest from Congress MP from Raiganj, Deepa Das Munshi, and several other Congress leaders.

“We are not going to give up two north Bengal seats to Trinamul, come what may. The simple reason is that we are a greater force there than what we are in south Bengal,” said Deepa, who is seen as the prime Congress mover behind the plan to seek the Left’s support to win the Siliguri mayor’s post.

State Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee said he would discuss the matter with state party president Pranab Mukherjee.

“How can Mamata claim two north Bengal seats much in advance when the issue concerning the bypolls to 10 Assembly seats has not been discussed between two partners?” he asked.

Congress sources said Mamata was doing all this to avenge the Siliguri insult.

“We knew Mamata would create problems by not conceding Assembly seats for the bypolls,” said a state Congress functionary.

Yesterday, at the Siliguri rally, Mamata said: “Amar bandhura lobhi hoye giyechhilo. Kintu er janya amay dosh deben na. Anya daler byaparey aami kichu bolbo na (My friends had become greedy. Do not blame me. I cannot speak about matters in other parties).

“I came here to apologise to the people of Siliguri as they gave us a favourable mandate to run the civic board. But we could not live up to this because of our friends’ betrayal.”

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