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Ballot, trains on Mamata radar

Calcutta, Jan. 28: Mamata Banerjee is expected to assess the prospect of her party in the 54 Assembly seats spread over six north Bengal districts after flagging off four new trains for the region tomorrow.

The railway minister, who left Calcutta for north Bengal tonight, will visit Cooch Behar and Siliguri to flag off the trains.

“I am going to bring smiles to the neglected people of north Bengal. The people of the region will benefit from new projects,” Mamata told reporters at her Kalighat home today.

She will lay the foundation stone for a unit to manufacture broadband equipment and introduce a DMU train between Cooch Behar and Malda. Three new trains will connect Siliguri with Chennai, Amritsar and Darbhanga.

“I had promised to link panchayats with RailTel broadband in my budget,” she added.

However, she might take time off her busy schedule in Siliguri to hold talks with party leaders in north Bengal concerning the prospects of the Trinamul Congress in the Assembly seats there.

“We will update Mamatadi on the party’s electoral prospect in 54 Assembly seats spread over the north Bengal districts,” Darjeeling Trinamul president Gautam Deb told The Telegraph.

Of the 54 Assembly seats, Trinamul has, however, only two, while the Congress three. The remaining seats are controlled by the Left Front.

Asked if the alliance with the Congress would also figure in the discussion with Mamata tomorrow, Deb said: “We want to tie up with the Congress to oust the CPM from Bengal. But the Congress should stop speaking against Mamatadi at public rallies”.

The state Congress today once again urged Trinamul to launch a joint movement against the ruling Left Front in Bengal.

“A joint movement of two alliance partners would give a positive signal to the ranks of both the parties. I call upon Trinamul Congress to launch a joint movement from Midnapore town, that has witnessed a string of violent incidents over the last few months,” state Congress president Manas Bhuniya said today. He had already received a letter from Trinamul state president Subrata Bakshi saying that the party would shortly take a decision on a joint movement with the Congress.

Asok salvo

Asok Bhattacharya has slammed the Trinamul chief and her ministry for asking for Rs 3.22 crore from the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority as salaries for railway staff who would man the level-crossing at Mahabirstan that has remained closed for a long time.

“Ever since the flyover became operational, there were demands from various quarters that the second railway gate located under the flyover at Mahabirstan should be reopened

“Considering the demand, we wrote to the railways, asking them to reopen it. The authorities, in a letter to us on January 7 this year, said it could be opened but we need to pay Rs 3.98 crore to them… We don’t find any logic as to why the SJDA should pay the salaries of the railwaymen,” he said.

Flagging off new trains is easy but setting up infrastructure to maintain the service is tough, the minister said, taking a dig at the railway minister. “There is shortage of tracks, platform and ancillary infrastructure in north Bengal but the railway minister is announcing trains one after another, leading to congestion and delay in movement of trains. Every train bound for north Bengal and the Northeast is running late by two-three hours,” Bhattacharya said.

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