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Ticket ‘threat’ in push for votes

Asansol, April 21: Several Trinamul councillors in Asansol and Kulti alleged that senior party leaders had threatened to deny them tickets in the civic polls if they failed to ensure a substantial lead from their wards for Lok Sabha candidate Dola Sen.

The councillors, who declined to be identified, said they were called to a meeting convened by Sen and minister Malay Ghatak in Asansol on Friday night and were asked to ensure that Trinamul got the lead in their wards.

According to sources, 14 of Kulti municipality’s 18 councillors and 26 of the 32 councillors of Asansol Municipal Corporation, including the mayor, attended the one-and-a-half-hour meeting.

Sen and Ghatak admitted they convened a meeting on Friday night, but both rubbished the allegation of warning councillors that they would be denied party tickets for the civic polls due in July if Sen did not get the lead from their areas.

Agriculture minister Ghatak, who is overseeing Sen’s campaign in Asansol, said he instructed the party councillors to become more active and urge people in their respective wards to vote for Trinamul.

“We did convene a meeting on Friday. We asked the councillors to become more active and be involved in the campaign. But never did we threaten them that they would be denied tickets if they failed to ensure votes for Trinamul,” Ghatak said today.

Sen said her party was like a family and it did not believe in “reward and punishment”.

“We met the councillors and they were willing to ensure my victory. We did not set any condition before them. Our discussion was positive and cordial. There is no doubt about my victory,” she said.

A Trinamul councillor of Kulti municipality said he, and many others like him, were worried about their chances of getting tickets for the civic polls as ensuring a huge victory margin in the four-cornered election was “difficult”.

“What can we do? We have been asked to ensure votes from our wards or else our fate will hang in the air for the civic polls in July. It’s true that we got a 30,000 victory margin in the 2011 Assembly polls in the Kulti municipal area. But the scene is not the same this time. A strong wind is in favour of the BJP because of the undue publicity (candidate) Babul Supriyo got from the controversies surrounding him,” he said.

“The Congress also has a considerable vote bank here. I am worried if I’ll get a ticket for the civic polls if I fail to ensure substantial votes for Dola Sen,” the councillor added.

According to another councillor in Asansol, mayor Tapas Banerjee had told many of his loyalists that he wasn’t expecting a ticket for the civic polls. “I don’t think I should expect a ticket this time. What if I fail to ensure votes for Dola Sen,” the councillor quoted Banerjee as saying.

Asansol has a concentration of Hindi-speaking voters and the BJP could do well there.

Sources had said earlier said that Sen’s candidature had not gone down well with several local Trinamul leaders. Mamata Banerjee had held three rallies in the Asansol constituency on April 4 to boost Sen’s chances.

Denying the allegation that any councillor in Asansol and Kulti was threatened, Trinamul working president in Asansol V. Sivdashan said: “We told the councillors to work hard and give our Lok Sabha candidate a substantial lead. The councillors were also asked to convey this message to others who could not come for the meeting because of personal reasons.”

In neighbouring Birbhum, district Trinamul chief Anubrata Mondal had allegedly promised cash rewards ranging between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh to party committee heads in whose areas Lok Sabha poll candidates secure the maximum victory margins. Mondal was served a show-cause notice on the basis of newspaper reports. He replied to the notice and was subsequently cautioned by the poll panel.