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Parishad links budget to Trinamul boost

Siliguri, Feb. 20: Allocation of over Rs 400 crore for tribal development department and promise of rations in closed tea gardens in the state budget for the next fiscal will further boost the Trinamul Congress’s prospects in the Lok Sabha polls, leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad admitted in private.

“The tribal population stood by the chief minister when she took a tough stand against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand to bring the Terai and Dooars under the jurisdiction of the GTA. When Mamata visited the Dooars many times, she listened to our demands with regard to education, employment and infrastructure and fulfilled them also,” said a Parishad leader.

“Gradually, the tribal people gravitated towards the chief minister. It is obvious that her party would bag tribal votes in the Lok Sabha polls because of the state government’s decisions to help tribals and tea garden workers.”

Trinamul doesn’t have a single Lok Sabha seat in its kitty in north Bengal.

A majority of tea garden workers in the plains of north Bengal are tribal people. Tea belts are spread across Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Lok Sabha constituencies. The Alipurduar seat has a large number of adivasis and is reserved for the Scheduled Tribe. Manohar Tirkey of the RSP is the MP from Alipurduar.

Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the Parishad, said: “We are grateful to the chief minister for forming a tribal development department and allocating Rs 424.3 crore to the department for the next fiscal. While according a reception to the chief minister in Malbazar on February 12, we made it clear that the tribal population is with her.”

The tribal development department was formed by the Mamata Banerjee government last year after separating it from the backward classes welfare department. The government also created the Tribal Development Council to see if welfare schemes for the adivasis were implemented properly.

Tirkey declined to say if the pro-tribal initiatives of the chief minister would yield electoral dividends for Trinamul in the general elections.

“The Parishad can’t say whether Trinamul will have leverage in the Parliament polls because of the state government’s announcements for the tribal people. But we can definitely say tribals are with the chief minister. The decision to supply rations to workers, in case any tea estate closes down, is also important. No government had ever done it before and workers were left to starve for weeks after estates were shut.”