March 24: Peeved over the silence of Trinamul over the question of alliance, the Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP) today tied up with the BJP and announced that it would support the national party’s candidates in all eight Lok Sabha seats in north Bengal.
KPP president Atul Roy had hinted at the alliance last week, while expressing dismay that despite talks with Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy in Calcutta, there has been no response from Trinamul about a tie-up.
“We will wait for a couple of days and if no communication is made from Trinamul’s side, we will talk to the BJP,” Roy had said.
Today, as BJP candidates of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar filed their nominations, Roy, along with Dipen Pramanik, the Jalpaiguri district BJP president, held a news conference and announced the alliance.
“Yesterday, we held talks with BJP’s vice-president and its candidate from Darjeeling seat S.S. Ahluwalia. He and other senior leaders have told us that they would put some of our key demands such as recognition of Kamtapuri (Rajbangshi) language and conservation of culture and history in the election manifesto of the party,” Roy said.
“We have been also apprised of the fact that BJP cannot put the demand of the separate state of Kamtapur in the manifesto as demands for 16 separate states have been made from different corners of the country. Our party has no problem with that as we know that BJP is in favour of smaller states. The alliance has been formed and all KPP workers and supporters will vote for BJP candidates in all eight Lok Sabha seats of north Bengal,” Roy said.
As part of the alliance, it has been decided that the KPP will support the BJP candidate in the Kumargram Assembly bypoll, which would also be held on April 17 with the Lok Sabha polls. On the other hand, the BJP will support Mrinal Roy, a former KLO militant, who has been fielded by the KPP in the Mainaguri Assembly seat where a bypoll is due.
It may be mentioned that Mrinal is the son of former Congress minister Jagadananada Roy and brother of Mitali Roy. Mitali, a firebrand KPP leader from Dhupguri, has recently switched over and joined Trinamul.
The alliance, political observers said, would affect the share of anti-Left Rajbangshi votes of Trinamul and the Congress.
“Going by the composition of voters, at least 20 of the 54 Assembly seats in north Bengal are reserved for Scheduled Castes. Among them, Rajbangshis are the majority in all these seats. While it is known that the KPP does not hold the entire Rajbangshi vote bank, figures of past polls prove that KPP does have 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the total votes with it,” a source said.
“If the KPP had fielded its own candidates, none of the other anti-Left parties could have got these votes. On the other hand, if no candidate was fielded by the KPP and there was no alliance, the votes would have divided among the anti-Left parties. In both these occasions, no single party would have enjoyed the major chunk of the KPP votes. But now that BJP has forged the alliance, it is a loss of a section of Rajbangshi votes for Trinamul and Congress,” the source added.
Trinamul leaders in Jalpaiguri, when asked about the alliance, said Rajbangshis will vote for Trinamul.
“People of the Rajbangshi community have seen the initiatives taken by our government for improvement of Rajbangshi culture and avenues for education through creation of a new university and also opening of a Rajbangshi academy,” Sourav Chakraborty, the Trinamul observer of Jalpaiguri district, said. “We are confident that people from this community will vote for us and not go with the BJP.”
BJP leaders differed.
“Trinamul leaders like Gautam Deb (the north Bengal development minister) are speaking in two voices. When they had allied with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to win the Assembly polls or had taken support of the Morcha’s MLAs in the recently held Rajya Sabha polls, it is fine. But whenever the BJP joins hands with the Morcha, they slander us for instigating separatism,” Dipen Pramanik, the Jalpaiguri district BJP president, said.
“We are very clear in our intentions and alliances. We appreciate the decision taken by the KPP leaders and will work together for development of the region and backward communities including the Rajbangshis.”