Siliguri, March 12: Trinamul leader Gautam Deb today spoke in Malbazar to leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, a party opposed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha with which Trinamul too has run into trouble just before panchayat elections.
After the meeting, the Parishad’s state general secretary Tez Kumar Toppo said the party’s leaders would meet chief minister Mamata Banerjee tomorrow in Metelli block.
Neither Gautam Deb nor Toppo spoke about what transpired in the hour-long meeting that had got postponed yesterday. Sources said Trinamul’s meeting with the tribal outfit just before the panchayat polls could prove crucial.
“A number of issues were discussed at the meeting. We have invited them to the government function to be held in Metelli block tomorrow where the chief minister would be present. They have also expressed eagerness to meet the chief minister but we are not sure whether she can make time to meet them,” Deb said.
Toppo said that the Parishad would send representatives to the meeting.
“Yesterday, Trinamul leaders of Jalpaiguri contacted us and communicated that their leader and state minister Gautam Deb wanted to talk to us,” Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the Parishad, said on Monday. But that meeting yesterday did not happen.
Sources in north Bengal said Trinamul had two key concerns in the panchayat polls. First, its nose-diving relations with the Morcha could cost it the Gorkha votes in the Dooars and Terai.
Second, its understanding with tribal leader John Barla was a bit confusing because he has pledged support to the Morcha as well. Barla recently said his JMM would tie up with the Morcha in the tea gardens and with Trinamul in the non-garden areas.
That the Congress has been courting the Morcha is another thorn that would prick Trinamul.
In such a scenario, a meeting between the north Bengal development minister and the Adivasi Vikas Parishad, an outfit that does not support the statehood stand of the Morcha, is crucial.
Trinamul would not want the tribal vote to get divided between candidates it puts up and those supported by the Adivasi Vikas Parishad.
“The increasing differences between the Morcha and Trinamul has made it evident that it is unlikely that Morcha supporters (in the Dooars and Terai) will vote Trinamul in the rural polls. The Morcha and the Congress’s relation is at its best in the recent times,” said a source.
“Trinamul is banking on the tribal population that forms a substantial portion of the Dooars and Terai vote bank. The party is trying to consolidate the tribal votes,” the source said.
“If Barla maintains such a dual stance, it will be tough for Trinamul to forge a tie-up with him. On the other hand, the Parishad is known for its anti-Morcha stance. It has not aligned with any party so far and has announced it will field and support Independents in the rural polls. We have better chances of forging an alliance and sharing seats (with the Parishad),” said a Trinamul source on the panchayat polls, that are expected to be held in April.
Over the past couple of months, Barla has been maintaining good relations with Trinamul and the Morcha.
The tribal leader had visited Calcutta last month to hold talks with Mamata over development issues.
“We cannot undermine the importance of the Parishad, leaders who have been unhappy about the importance given to Barla (who left the outfit to strike out on his own),” a Trinamul source said.
Toppo said yesterday: “If any proposal for an alliance comes from Trinamul, we would remain non-committal and decide only after a meeting of our organisation.”