March 21: Leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and the Congress in Jalpaiguri district held talks on forging an alliance to fight the coming panchayat polls in the Dooars and Terai, sources in both the organisations said.
The talks have been held in the backdrop of a move by the Trinamul Congress and a breakaway faction of the Parishad led by John Barla to tie up in the plains. Trinamul, according to sources, wanted an alliance with the Parishad, but the tribal outfit refused to go with the ruling party because it does not want to have anything to do with Barla.
A Congress leader in Jalpaiguri said today: “We have held talks with Parishad leaders on a proposal for striking a deal to field common candidates in the panchayat elections. The leaders of the Congress and the Parishad discussed the proposal as they don’t want votes to be divided in the tea belt where both the parties have supporters,” said the leader who didn’t want to be named.
Asked about the talks for a poll pact with the Parishad, Jalpaiguri district Congress president Mohan Bose didn’t give a clear answer.
“We had taken an initiative (to forge an alliance with the Parishad) ahead of the 2011 Assembly polls. That move didn’t work but there is no harm in trying again. In politics, nothing is impossible and our party is exploring avenues for an alliance to win more seats,” Bose said.
“Trinamul had also made an attempt to reach out to the Parishad. But the Parishad said there would be no electoral understanding with Trinamul if the ruling party struck a deal with Barla. So, the Congress is free to hold talks with the Parishad on the elections,” said a Congress source.
Parishad insiders confirmed that talks had been held with the Congress on stitching an alliance for the panchayat polls.
“Although a chunk of tea garden workers has deserted the Citu and the Intuc and joined Parishad trade union PTWU (Progressive Tea Workers’ Union), the CPM and the Congress still wield considerable clout in the Dooars and Terai,” said a Parishad leader.
“We have found that tea workers are allergic to Citu as the erstwhile Left Front governments failed to meet their demands. But they don’t have any major grievance against the Intuc. So, there is a scope for an alliance with the Congress,” the Parishad leader said.
The Parishad’s stated position has been to field Independents in the polls without any seat adjustments with other parties.
But one leader of the outfit said there was a rethink in the organisation on contesting the elections alone.
“When we contested the Assembly polls in 2011 alone, we couldn’t corner much of the votes. Many in the organisation are favouring an alliance with a political party to ensure that we obtain a good number of seats in the panchayat polls.”
Rajesh Lakra, the general secretary of the Dooars-Terai regional unit of the outfit, said a Parishad meeting would be convened at Banarhat on March 23 to discuss the polls.
“We intend to rethink our stand and a new decision might be taken at the meeting,” he said.
Lakra said Trinamul was adopting a double standard with regard to its stand on the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
“The chief minister is thundering that there will be no division of Bengal again. But Trinamul is trying to forge an alliance with Barla, who supports the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand for the inclusion of the Terai and Dooars in the GTA Sabha territory. Such a double standard will work against Trinamul in the panchayat polls.”
The Parishad is opposed to Gorkhaland. The Congress, which has been trying to woo Gurung of late, has been cautious not to utter the words “statehood” and “Gorkhaland” in its talks with Bimal Gurung.