The SMC building
Siliguri, March 10: The Darjeeling district Congress will ask Trinamul for the deputy mayor’s post if Sabita Devi Agarwal, the Congress councillor contesting for the civic chairperson’s seat, loses against Trinamul’s Nantu Paul, sources said today.
The elections would be held on March 13.
“Two more days are left for the polls. We have sent a letter to Gautam Deb, who is the leader of Trinamul at the SMC, requesting him to support Agarwal. They have fielded Nantu Paul against her but we would insist that they withdraw their candidate and support Agarwal,” a Congress leader said. “Even if they go ahead (with the polls) and it is found that we have lost the contest, we would ask Trinamul to give the deputy mayor’s post to us. At the time of forging the alliance in 2011, it was agreed that both parties would have five seats. We expect Trinamul would go by that,” the Congress leader added.
Trinamul’s Ranjan Sil Sharma is the deputy mayor at the SMC. While Trinamul has 15 councillors in the civic body, Congress has 14.
Congress sources said although the leaders were saying in public that Agarwal would win the polls, they have admitted privately that it is going to be a tough one.
Shankar Malakar, the Darjeeling district Congress president, who was in Delhi when Agarwal and Paul filed their nominations, said: “If Trinamul leaders do not respond to our letter and go ahead with their candidate for the chairman’s post, we would not hesitate to take strict decisions in the coming days. We are waiting for the election and once it is over, we would take appropriate decisions.”
He, however, did not elaborate on the “strict decisions”.
This is the first time that the Congress has spoken of taking “harder steps”.
According to observers, Malakar’s assertions indicate fresh rounds of dispute between the Congress and Trinamul in the SMC.
“It is evident that in case Agarwal loses the contest, the Congress would seek the deputy mayor’s post. As a refusal is likely from Trinamul, there are chances that the Congress will take a new decision,” said an observer.
“Trinamul would not yield to the Congress’s request of supporting Agarwal in the polls and in case Paul loses, the party (Trinamul) might take a decision of pulling out of the civic board, which it had hinted earlier,” he added.
Krishna Paul, the member mayor-in-council (PWD) and Darjeeling district secretary general of Trinamul, said: “We are an independent political party and the Congress cannot dictate terms to us. Whatever the Congress leaders are saying is their prerogative but they cannot influence our decisions.”
Trinamul has four MMICs and the deputy mayor at the civic body while the Congress has the mayor and three MMICs.
“Nantu Paul will contest as our candidate and will get total support from us. The Congress must realise that it has less number of councillors than us before making any new demands over posts,” said Krishna Paul.
Nantu Paul had switched from the Congress to Trinamul last year.