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Cong black flags greet ministers

Malda, Dec. 16: Around 200 Congress supporters today waved black flags at Trinamul ministers Gautam Deb and Sabitri Mitra in Old Malda this afternoon demanding why the local Congress MP and MLA were not invited to the inauguration of a central road construction project.

The Congress said the road construction had already begun and the inauguration was suddenly organised by the Trinamul ministers to take credit for the work.

The incident has happened when panchayat polls are round the corner.

Deb reached Popra village around 1.50pm to inaugurate the construction of the 18km road between Naranpur and Raniganj, both in Malda.

He was surrounded by black-flag holding Congress supporters about 400 yards from the dais erected for the inauguration. They shouted “Gautam Deb, go back, you have to explain why our MLA was not invited to the event.”

Police tried to push back the demonstrators and a scuffle ensued. When minister for woman and child development Sabitri Mitra reached the village, 15km from here, she also faced a similar protest from the Congress supporters.

Witnesses said a group of Trinamul Congress supporters, led by local leader Basistha Trivedi, was present at Popra. “There was a scuffle between the supporters of Trinamul and the Congress and this happened after both the ministers were shown the black flags,” said a source.

“We had not gone to the area to canvass for votes (for panchayat polls). We were here to start development work. However, the Congress leaders in the area are not in favour of development. We wanted to start the construction of a road in Popra. All those who were to be invited were sent invitations,” Deb said.

The village is in the Old Malda Assembly constituency whose MLA is Arjun Haldar of the Congress. Union minister of state Abu Hashem Khan Choudhury is the local Congress MP.

Haldar, who was not with the demonstrators, said the Congress had spearheaded a movement demanding a road between Naranpur and Raniganj. “Our agitation bore fruit and the Centre recently sanctioned Rs 4 crore from the Backward Area Development Fund for the metalled road. The work started a few days ago. Today, I got to know that two ministers had gone to Popra to inaugurate the construction. The ministers were trying to garner kudos for the project.”