|Gangotri Datta. File picture
Siliguri, May 19: The state Congress leadership has told party leaders in Siliguri to dissolve the civic board that it helms and prepare for fresh elections.
Although a section of Congress leaders is citing the 4G cable scandal as the immediate cause for the move, some other party leaders said the dismal Lok Sabha poll figures for the party and the fact that the Congress was running a minority board played a part in reaching the decision.
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury today said over phone from Delhi: “Considering the state of affairs in the SMC, we have decided to dissolve the board. There is no reason to run the civic body any longer. The decision has been taken and it has been conveyed to district leaders.”
Sources in the SMC said the board could be dissolved in the next two days.
The civic elections are due in September.
Since last year, the Congress has been running the minority board with 14 councillors in the 47-member House. Two things aided the Congress. First, Trinamul was one short of 16 members, or one-third strength, and could not table a no-confidence motion on its own. Second, the Left did not table a no-confidence motion though it has 18 seats.
But for the Congress, keeping the SMC House meant pandering to every Left demand.
“We were already facing inconveniences because of the lack of majority but the recent 4G cable issue led to further complications within the party,” a senior Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity.
“The party thus felt that it is better to dissolve the board so that weaknesses can be repaired ahead of the civic polls due in September, instead of clinging to the board as a minority party,” he said.
But it is the Lok Sabha result that may have worried the Congress much more than the 4G cable scandal, in which a section of the party accused Congress MMIC Sujoy Ghatak of taking a bribe to get cables laid in Siliguri for Reliance Jio Infocomm’s 4G network.
A leader close to Ghatak today said though “some of our leaders are emphasising on the 4G cable issue and trying to make that a point for the dissolution of the board”, it was also true that in “all 14 Congress wards, the BJP, and in some cases Trinamul, have secured more votes (than us) in the Lok sabha election”.
The BJP has won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat of which the SMC area is a part.
The leader said: “If the board is dissolved now, the Congress has a chance to repair the gaps.”
Last year, when bypolls were held in two wards, the Congress had finished third. One of the seats went to Trinamul, the other to the Left.
Asked about the decision to dissolve the board, Shankar Malakar, the Darjeeling district Congress president, said: “The party, the mayor, MMICs and councillors of the Congress will not take any responsibility for the allegations levelled against Sujoy Ghatak on the 4G cable issue. We find it worrisome that the party’s and the board’s image have suffered because of the allegations of corruption against him.”
An MMIC, who did not want to be named, said that if the board was not dissolved now and the state government announced civic elections, the Congress would have no time to prepare for the polls.
“It would be better to dissolve the board and get into the campaign,” the MMIC said.
Trinamul minister Gautam Deb said: “Every resident of Siliguri is aware of the pathetic state of civic services provided by the Congress board. The party has realised it would face a grim result in the civic polls and is thus taking such decisions at the last minute.”