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SMC reels off projects in public park

- A first by civic body that faced repeated criticism from minister Deb

Siliguri, March 4: The Congress-led Siliguri Municipal Corporation today announced 103 projects at Baghajatin Park in town, a first by the civic body, that sources said was done to shake off its negative image in the election season.

The Congress holds a minority board in the SMC. Trinamul has tried several times to bring a no-confidence motion to topple the board. North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb has said many times that the SMC board had failed to deliver services to the residents of Siliguri.

Today, however, the Trinamul civic chairman praised the SMC for the projects. Of all the Trinamul and Left councillors invited, only chairman Arindam Mitra was at the event.

The 103 projects mostly concern road repair, drain digging and beautification.

“Decisions to take up these projects were taken at board meetings of the civic body held every month. We are aware of our responsibilities…. A total of Rs 35 crore would be spent for these 103 schemes,” mayor Gangotri Datta said.

Asked why the projects were being taken up ahead of the general elections and whether it was being done to keep pace with Deb’s department, Datta said: “There is no question of any competition. These are routine works done by the civic body. Repair and construction work in the city are a continuous process with the sole intention of providing better civic services to the residents of Siliguri.”

Deb has announced several projects for all of north Bengal and Siliguri since the passage of the Bengal budget. Baghajatin Park, from where Datta announced the projects in the presence of the councillors, would be beautified using north Bengal development department funds, Deb has already said.

A source in Siliguri said: “This is the first time the civic board has announced initiation of so many projects, though over 90 of these are either repair or improvement of existing roads, construction of some new roads and repair of drains.”

The source added: “It is evident that the Congress, which has faced blatant criticism from Deb and his party, can no longer afford to be run down by Deb.”

Trinamul has been making inroads in north Bengal after coming to power in 2011.

“The Congress, in a last-ditch attempt, is trying to convince the people that it is serious about development and are not sitting idle in the SMC,” the source said.

The Left, which has the maximum number of councillors in the SMC, too staged a 24-hour dharna against the Congress at SMC. The dharna concluded at 2pm today.

As of now, there are 14 Congress councillors at the civic body, 15 are from Trinamul, and the Left has 18 councillors.

Trinamul sources today said the party was not too keen to topple the Congress now as elections are scheduled in September. “We don’t want to be in power at the SMC now…. It is always better to work for the upcoming civic polls,” a senior Trinamul leader said.

Arindam Mitra, the civic chairman, today surprised the audience by praising the board. “I differ from the allegation tossed at the civic body that no development work has been done in the past four-and-a-half years,” Mitra said.

“I am saying this as an SMC councillor and not as representative of any party,” he said.