Siliguri, Oct. 4: The rise of Trinamul Congress in rural north Bengal has started giving the CPM sleepless nights in the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad, over which the Left party had near-complete control till last month.
On September 18, three Congress members in the seven-seat Mahakuma Parishad switched to Trinamul. The other four seats are held by the CPM.
The Parishad is the body in charge of development in the rural areas of Siliguri subdivision. It has three tiers, the top one being the Mahakuma Parishad, then the panchayat samitis and the gram panchayats.
The top tier is in control of the CPM for now. But after the Congress members’ switched to Trinamul, it decided to bring a no-confidence vote on October 7. The question has dawned in the mind of the CPM leaders on how it would keep the nine karmadhyaksha-led sthayi samitis with itself.
The Left party also fears that one of its four members may vote for Trinamul on October 7, if the vote is held. It has issued a whip barring any of its members from being present that day.
The CPM sabhadhipati of the parishad, Pascal Minz, has filed a plea in Calcutta High Court challenging Trinamul’s ability to call a no-confidence vote in the absence of a gazette notification announcing the switch of the three former Congress members. But the issuing of a gazette notification is a matter of time.
To keep the sthayi samitis with its members, the CPM will now need the support of the Congress.
For the election of karmadhyakshas to run the nine sthayi samitis — which function as departments — the Mahakuma Parishad allows voting of MPs and MLAs of the areas which fall under the rural body’s jurisdiction — namely Matigara-Naxalbari and Phansidewa.
MLAs and MPs who hold ministries cannot vote. Also allowed to vote are the Mahakuma’s panchayat samiti members. Right now, Trinamul has three of the four panchayat samiti seats and three Mahakuma Parishad seats, which make their strength six for a sthayi samiti election.
The CPM has four Parishad members and one panchayat samiti member, making its strength five. The Congress has two MLAs in the Mahakuma Parishad jurisdiction area, which makes their tally two.
“If the Congress MLAs abstain, Trinamul can bag all the karmadhyaksha posts from the CPM, which would leave the sabhadhipati and sahakari sabhadhipati without any department, despite being in power. On the other hand, if the Congress supports the CPM, the Left party can retain the posts as it will have seven votes, against the six of Trinamul,” a source said.
Right now, the CPM holds all the sthayi samitis, the departments divided among the four Mahakuma Parishad members.
North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb said yesterday: “The CPM has managed to run the sthayi samitis because of a tacit understanding with the Congress. As the Congress needed the CPM in the SMC, the party, despite having the majority (it had three Mahakuma seats and two MLAs), did not seek the posts of karmadhyakshas all these years. Now that people have switched to our party, political equations have changed. Trinamul, on principle, will not do anything which can benefit the CPM.”
A Trinamul insider said: “Right now, we have the majority to get all sthayi samitis if no new political equation develops in the coming days.”
Today, Darjeeling district Congress president Shankar Malakar blamed Trinamul for interfering in the working if the Mahakuma Parishad.
“We are against strike and any type of tension as such situations hinder the development process in a region. But these days, when we have seen the highhandedness of the north Bengal development minister, who is trying to run the civic body in Siliguri by undermining the elected Congress board, the allegations levelled by elected GTA members about interference of the state government seem to be correct,” Malakar said.
“We condemn such act. It all started with the GTA, followed by SMC and now, he (Deb) is eyeing the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad. The Congress feels that it is due to the minister’s attempts that normal functioning of these bodies are being affected,” Malakar, who is the Matigara-Naxalbari MLA and hence one of the two Congress voters in the Mahakuma Parishad, said.