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CIMA Gallary

Barla hints at no Trinamul tie-up

May 12: Tribal leader John Barla today said he would not forge an alliance with the Trinamul Congress for the upcoming rural polls if the state’s ruling party continued to make incursions into his strongholds across the Dooars and tried to influence his support base.

Barla’s comment comes a day after Trinamul leaders organised a rally and a meeting on the Lakkhipara Tea Estate at Banarhat in Dhupguri block of the Dooars.

Yesterday, 30-40 garden residents joined Mamata Banerjee’s party.

Lakkhipara, where Barla stays, is his bastion.

“Since its emergence in the Dooars, Trinamul has adopted an aggressive stance to expand its support base. Its leaders, particularly those who have joined the party recently, are making forays into the strongholds of even their allies like us. We abhor such moves which are aimed to take away our support base and we would be forced to think twice on the proposal to join hands with the party (for the panchayat polls),” Barla said today.

“At least six months ago, we had proposed the alliance. Trinamul leaders had reciprocated (then) and leaders like Mukul Roy and Gautam Deb held talks with us in Malbazar. But these days, the party is silent on the proposal (of alliance) and instead, the leaders are entering our areas, raising Trinamul flags and persuading our workers and supporters to join Mamata Banerjee’s party,” said Barla, who is with the JMM.

“This is being done in the name of the tea trade union of Trinamul (Trinamul Plantation Workers’ Union affiliated to the INTTUC). But the party, in a clandestine manner, is trying to weaken us,” he added.

“If the party does not restrain itself, we will shun the proposal and continue the JMM-Gorkha Janmukti Morcha alliance and consider Trinamul as a contender like any other political party. This will not be tolerated any further,” said the tribal leader.

After Trinamul leaders left Lakkhipara yesterday, Barla organised a rally with 500-odd people in the area to prove his popularity in the Dooars.

Barla who was instrumental in forging the JMM-Morcha alliance, had tried for an alliance with Trinamul.

But Mamata’s party is yet to come up with a clear stand on the alliance.

Observers believe Trinamul is not likely to announce its alliance with Barla any time soon.

“It is unlikely for Trinamul to announce the alliance as it cannot afford to antagonise the people of different communities as well as other organisations and parties like the official lobby of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad,” said an observer.

“Now that Trinamul has Kalchini MLA Wilson Chapramari and erstwhile Morcha leaders like Padam Lama and former associates of Barla such as Parasnath Baraik with it, the party would try to penetrate into the Dooars all alone,” he added.

Trinamul, which lacked tribal faces even six months back, has successfully utilised the entry of the tribal leaders.

“In Banarhat, there are 22 tea gardens and our trade unions have units in 15 of them. All these units enjoy the support of a substantial portion of the workforce. We had gone to Lakkhipara (yesterday) with a similar intention and we found many people who are willing to join our trade union and our party. There is no logic behind Barla’s disappointment as any trade union or political party is free to take up such activities in any area,” said Wilson.

“We would organise a rally and a meeting in Lakkhipara on Tuesday,” said the Kalchini MLA.

He alleged that Trinamul flags erected on lampposts and trees in the Dooars were damaged.

“Some miscreants, who we suspect are from other trade unions, have damaged our flags. They are doing so because they are apprehensive of losing their support base in the area,” Wilson said.

Barla today said he had a lot of supporters in the Dooars.

“Thousands of people are with us and they would never join Trinamul. The party should not take any step which might lead to tension and can sour our relationship.”