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Trinamul crucial 1 gap
Congress third in SMC wards

Nov. 25: The Trinamul Congress today won the seat that the disgraced Nantu Paul had to quit but did not get the 16 seats it needed to bring a no-trust motion against the Congress in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC).

Overall, Trinamul won three of the six wards where civic bypolls were held in north Bengal. The Left won two, and the Congress one.

In Jalpaiguri’s Malbazar, Trinamul inducted two of the four Congress councillors today after the state’s ruling party wrested one seat from the CPI.

In Cooch Behar, where 10 Congress councillors had already switched to Trinamul recently, the ruling party won the bypoll in a seat that was earlier held by the Congress.

While ward 11 of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation went to Trinamul’s Paul, the CPM won ward 31. The Congress came third in both the seats.

The bypolls were held on Friday along with civic elections in five municipalities in south Bengal.

Nantu Paul, the former chairman of the SMC, won from ward 11. In the last polls in 2009, he had won on the Congress ticket and became the chairman.

He switched to Trinamul and got re-elected as SMC chairman earlier this year. But the Left and the Congress refused to accept Paul as the civic chairman. The left boycotted sessions and the Congress councillors refused to attend meetings called by Paul.

Paul ultimately had to resign in September. Before the results were announced today, Trinamul and the Congress had 14 councillors each at the SMC.

“In the 47-member civic body, Trinamul needs one-third seats, that is 16, to move the no-trust motion against the board.

With 15 seats in the kitty now, Trinamul cannot move the motion against the mayor.

The Congress also wanted to increase its tally, but did not win any of the two seats.

“The Congress will now have to face more trouble from Trinamul,” said a political observer.

Trinamul leader and north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb said mayor Gangotri Datta should resign immediately.

“The mayor must accept the defeat on behalf of her party and should step down immediately. Otherwise, we will bring a no-confidence motion against the board in the first week of December,” he said.

Asked how Trinamul would table the motion as it still lacked the required number of 16, Deb said: “We will prove our majority at an appropriate time. The motion will be tabled because of the failure of the Congress-run civic board to deliver.”

Sources in Trinamul said some Congress councillors might join Trinamul.

The CPM said the Left would continue to sit in the Opposition though the combine’s tally had shot up to 18 with today’s results.

“The victory of our candidate in ward 31 would inspire us to work more for the people of Siliguri. We will, however, continue to be in the Opposition,” said former minister and CPM leader Asok Bhattacharya.

Asked whether the Left would extend support to the Congress in daily proceedings at the board, Darjeeling district CPM secretary Jibesh Sarkar said: “They (Congress) will have to take care of their own baby (SMC). We do not believe in opportunistic politics for serving minor political interests.”

Mayor Datta said the Congress would find out why the party had fared badly in the bypolls.

Asked about Deb’s demand for her resignation, she said: “For the past two-three years, he (Deb) has been demanding my resignation and threatening to table a no-trust motion against the board. There is nothing new in his words and he will continue to do so.”

The Congress managed to retain ward 10 of the Jalpaiguri municipality, to which the bypoll was held on Friday.

The Forward Bloc won the bypoll to ward 5 of Dinhata municipality.

While Jalpaiguri municipality is ruled by the Congress, Dinhata is with the Forward Bloc.