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Party eyes AIIMS plank

Siliguri, June 22: The BJP would campaign across north Bengal for an AIIMS-like hospital in the region, eyeing an issue till now pushed by the Congress, which the BJP sees as an opportunity to gain a place as the main opposition force.

The party, which held a meeting of its extended district committee today, did not say anything about the possibility of an AIIMS-like hospital coming up in Kalyani, Nadia. Nor did the party specifically mention that it wanted the hospital in Raiganj, for which former Congress MP Deepa Das Munshi had campaigned for a long time.

At the meeting it was decided we would start holding talks with leaders of other north Bengal districts so that we could together start the movement to demand an AIIMS in north Bengal, a senior member of Darjeeling district BJP said.

The decision of the BJP, party insiders said, was because of the results of the Lok Sabha elections. The party secured a lead in the Islampur Assembly segment in North Dinajpur district. The CPMs Mohammad Salim won Raiganj in North Dinajpur by a slender lead from Deepa, but the BJP has seen an opening in the district because of its lead in Islampur, where the BJP led Trinamul by 2,324 votes.

Islampur is scheduled to face civic elections this year.

A BJP insider said: The party has won a Lok Sabha seat in north Bengal and has got leads in a number of Assembly segments. Our support base is growing and civic and rural polls are ahead. As the issue of AIIMS is a sentimental one for north Bengal, we may witness a slip in the support base of Trinamul as the Congress and the Left would surely make it an issue.

Since 2008, Deepa has campaigned to bring the AIIMS-like hospital to Panishala in Raiganj. But the Trinamul government always favoured Kalyani, where the government has land. Around 150 acres would be required.

Although no official word has come from the Centre or the state on the hospital project, the Congress has said it will start protests in Siliguri. In Raiganj, the West Dinajpur Merchant Chamber of Commerce has called a 24-hour strike tomorrow in North Dinajpur.