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Growth Trinamul plank for SMP polls

Siliguri, April 29: Trinamul leader and minister Gautam Deb today said the party would campaign for the three-tier panchayat polls in the Siliguri subdivision on the development plank and vehemently oppose the demand for the separate state of Gorkhaland.

The Darjeeling district administration has initiated the process of delimitation and reservation of seats in all three tiers –panchayat, panchayat samiti and Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad – and elections are scheduled for June.

“We have started preparations for the three-tier panchayat polls. At present, we hold the SMP, all four panchayat samitis and most of the 22 gram panchayats. In the ensuing polls, our target is to obtain maximum seats in the upper tier (SMP) and middle tier (panchayat samiti) and gain majority in over 16 panchayats,” Deb said over the phone from Calcutta today.

“Our party will campaign on the agenda of development of the rural areas of Siliguri subdivision. The SMP and the state government have taken up several projects in the rural areas. We also reiterate our vehement opposition to the partition of the state,” he added.

Trinamul’s decision to oppose the separate state demand in the rural polls follows the recent visit of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung to the Terai.

“Gurung, who held a meeting with Morcha workers in the foothills on the outskirts of Siliguri on Sunday, did not say directly whether his party would field candidates in the rural polls. But his sudden visit ahead of the polls and a pledge to work for the development of the Terai indicate that there will be Morcha candidates in all elections,” said an observer.

“Gurung’s trip was to assess the political situation in the Terai. Trinamul has realised it and will mention the separate statehood demand during the campaign to consolidate anti-Gorkhaland votes,” he added.

There is a strong presence of tribals in the Terai and the support of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad will help Trinamul. The tea gardens of the Terai have 70,000-odd voters and most of them are adivasis.

“Like in the Lok Sabha elections, Parishad leaders are likely to share the dais with Trinamul in the SMP polls as well. There are also chances that the Parishad will field Independents, particularly in the two lower tiers. In 2009, such candidates had won in some seats,” said the observer.

On the other hand, candidates are likely to be fielded by a combine of parties like the Morcha, BJP, KPP and the JMM also.

“In Jalpaiguri, we had fielded candidates in the panchayat polls last year and many of them won. Most likely, there will be candidates in the polls to all three tiers of the SMP also and the final decision will be taken in the due course of time. The Morcha’s alliance with the BJP, KPP and the JMM is also likely to continue,” said a senior Morcha leader in the Terai.