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Hill Trinamul to campaign in Dooars

Darjeeling, July 5: The Trinamul Congress has decided to take its leaders from the hills to the Dooars to canvass for the party’s candidates for the panchayat elections in a move to counter Bimal Gurung’s sustained campaign.

Trinamul’s decision to deploy the Gorkha leaders of the party on the campaign trail is being seen as an effort to win the support of community members.

The Morcha president has been camping in the plains since June 20 and in the past fortnight, he has criss-crossed almost every nook and corner of the Dooars, which has substantial voters from the Gorkha community. The Gorkhas are the second largest community in the Dooars after the adivasis.

Trinamul, which is looking at making major inroads into the Dooars during the rural polls, has drawn up a plan to counter Gurung’s presence in the plains.

“The party has decided to send hill leaders to campaign in the Dooars. The list of the hill leaders who will be asked to campaign in the plains will be drawn up after the party holds a public meeting at Gairibas in Jhaldhaka (in Kalimpong subdivision) on Sunday,” said Binny Sharma, the spokesman for Trinamul hill unit.

Trinamul has a clear agenda to counter Gurung.

“We will tell the Dooars people, especially the Gorkhas, that the GTA Sabha cannot bring about development in the Dooars. The region can grow only through the north Bengal development department and the proposed Dooars Development Authority,” said Sharma.

Trinamul leaders want to drive home their point that it makes little sense to support the Morcha since Gurung cannot bring about development.

Gurung has been campaigning in the plains assuring his supporters that the hill party has not given up its demand for the inclusion of 391 mouzas of the Dooars and Terai in the GTA.

Sharma said: “We are not against the GTA and the state government will provide all support to the hill body. But we want to make it clear to the Dooars people that Gurung’s demand for the inclusion of the plains mouzas is an eye wash and just another election stunt.”

Trinamul’s dependence on the leaders from the hills for the campaign in the Dooars betrays the party’s eagerness to garner as many votes as possible.

“Although Trinamul has leaders among the Gorkhas in the Dooars, the presence of high-profile people from the community in the party’s hill unit will change the course of the campaign. They can take on Gurung and the Morcha in a better way and make the Gorkhas vote in favour of Trinamul,” said an observer.

Gurung has told his supporters in the plains that the party is ready to launch an agitation after the rural polls to demand the inclusion of 391 mouzas in the GTA.

A fact verification committee is looking into the recommendation of Justice (retd) Shyamal Sen Committee that only five of the 396 mouzas be brought under the GTA Sabha.

The hill party is now demanding that the fact verification committee make a field survey before passing its opinion.

The Morcha has tied up with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha to contest the rural polls in the plains.

The JMM, too, is in favour of including the plains mouzas in the hills, a demand that is unlikely to be fulfilled given the state government’s announcement that a separate development authority would be formed for the Dooars.

Of the 13 blocks in Jalpaiguri district, seven are in the Dooars.

Around 40 per cent of the 2,346 gram panchayat seats in Jalpaiguri fall in the Dooars.

A similar percentage of the 422 panchayat samiti seats are also in the Dooars.

The zilla parishad has 37 seats and around 15 of them are in the Dooars.