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CPM warns against rural ‘hobnob’ with foe

Midnapore, Oct. 3: The West Midnapore CPM leadership has warned at least 70 gram panchayat pradhans, including around 20 in Jungle Mahal, following reports of their alleged hobnobbing with local Trinamul Congress leaders and implementation of projects after consulting them.

CPM leaders said the district leadership had asked the panchayat chiefs to work on their own and keep distance from Trinamul as far as the rural bodies were concerned because the Left was “still a force to reckon with” in West Midnapore.

A CPM leader in West Midnapore said at a recent “assessment meeting” where zilla parishad sabhadhipati and district committee leader Antara Bhattacharya was present: “We got reports from Bhattacharya that nearly 60 per cent of the CPM pradhans in West Midnapore were consulting local Trinamul leaders before implementing projects. They are also taking up programmes and projects following instructions of leaders of the rival party.

“This is against the party line and we have warned about 70 pradhans. We may have to take action (against them) for if we don’t, CPM workers who are fighting Trinamul atrocities in villages will lose their morale.”

Bhattacharya said she had received “complaints” against some pradhans. “I immediately informed the district leadership and an inquiry is on.”

District secretariat member Dahareswar Sen said: “All pradhans are not party members and so they may not know our party discipline. After the Assembly polls last year, many of our leaders and workers had to face threats and assaults from Trinamul. False police cases were lodged against many of them. We think many panchayat chiefs do not have the courage to face such atrocities and are trying to keep Trinamul leaders in good humour.”

A CPM leader said around 30 of the 70 pradhans were party members.

District Trinamul president Dinen Roy said many CPM panchayat chiefs were “seeking help” from leaders of the ruling party. “It is a fact that many CPM pradhans are taking the help of our local leaders for better development of the villages. Why shouldn’t we help them?”

A CPM leader said the 70-odd gram panchayats were located in Debra, Pingla, Mohanpur, Keshiari, Sabang, Gopiballavpur, Nayagram, Narayangarh and Midnapore Sadar.

“Some of them have told us that they are being forced to keep good relations with the Trinamul leaders because they fear they would be beaten up or framed in false cases of corruption if they don’t do so,” the leader said.

Some of the panchayat chiefs who have been warned said the situation had changed drastically since the Assembly elections.

“A large number of people who voted in our favour in the 2008 panchayat polls cast their ballots for Trinamul in the last Assembly polls. So if we are to run the panchayats smoothly, how can we ignore the local Trinamul leaders? We are finding it hard to explain this to our party. If we pick up fights with Trinamul and don’t do any development work, people will criticise us,” a panchayat pradhan from Narayangarh said.

Another CPM pradhan from Jhargram said that in Jungle Mahal, many villagers who were once activists of the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities had now switched over to Trinamul.

“These people had once beaten us up, looted our property and driven us out of our homes. They have now joined Trinamul and many of them have emerged as local leaders. Under such circumstances, we can’t afford to antagonise them if we have to function,” he said.