Ashok Ghosh (left) and Ashok Mukherjee at a campaign rally ahead of the panchayat polls in Khoirashol in June
Suri, Aug. 18: Uncertainty shrouds the formation of 10 gram panchayat boards in Birbhum’s Khoirashol as negotiations between groups owing allegiance to slain Trinamul leader Ashok Ghosh and prime accused Ashok Mukherjee to prevent cross-voting have stopped and at least 10 elected members are absconding.
Ashok Ghosh was shot dead on August 12. Three of the five arrested accused are known to be close to Ashok Mukherjee, who is on the run.
“Leaders of the two factions in Khoirashol had started negotiations in my presence to prevent the embarrassing situation of Trinamul voting against Trinamul. But the talks have come to a halt as Ghosh has been murdered and Mukherjee is absconding. We don’t know when the gram panchayat boards will be formed,” said Malay Mukherjee, Trinamul’s observer for Khoirashol and vice-president of the party’s district unit.
The boards were supposed to have been formed yesterday but Trinamul leaders sought more time from the district administration.
District magistrate J.P. Meena said: “We have fixed the date of formation of gram panchayat boards in Khoirashol on August 23.”
Trinamul has got the majority in all 10 gram panchayats in Khoirashol block. Most winning candidates in eight of these panchayats are Ashok Ghosh’s supporters.
In the Panchra gram panchayat, Trinamul has won 14 of the 18 seats but negotiations are necessary for smooth formation of the board as eight of the victorious candidates belong to Ashok Ghosh’s lobby and six to Ashok Mukherjee’s.
“We need at least 10 members to form the board. But our victorious candidates are divided in their loyalties,” a Trinamul leader said.
In Nakrakonda, Trinamul has won five of the nine seats. But three of the winners belong to Ashok Ghosh’s camp and two to Ashok Mukherjee’s faction.
Elected members owing allegiance to Ashok Ghosh said they were in no hurry to take part in voting to form the boards.
“We are depressed as our leader has been murdered. We are not ready to cooperate with supporters of Ashok Mukherjee at this moment. We first want to discuss the matter with Suri MLA Swapan Ghosh and Ashok Ghosh’s brother Dipak,” said an elected Trinamul member of the Nakrakonda gram panchayat.
Ashok Ghosh was known to be close to the Suri MLA.
A Trinamul leader in Suri wondered how the boards would be formed in such an atmosphere of acrimony.
“How can we form the board without cooperation from both factions? The CPM, which has won four seats in the Nakrakonda panchayat, may form the board if the two Trinamul factions don’t unite. So we have sought time from the administration to sort out the matter. We are hopeful of settling the issue soon,” he said.
Trinamul sources said attempts were being made to contact the 10 elected members who are absconding.
“We have to ensure their return before the negotiations restart. We also need to defuse the tension between supporters of the two factions,” another leader said.