The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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RSP keeps up pressure

Siliguri, Feb. 12: The ongoing war of words between the RSP and the CPM intensified today with the smaller partner threatening to go it alone in the panchayat elections in north Bengal.

The RSP said it would make the crisis in the region’s tea industry its main poll plank in the elections slated for May.

The rift between the allies surfaced 10 days ago when the RSP defied the CPM and backed a Naxalite bandh to protest the government decision to close down the Chandmoni tea estate and set up a satellite township.

The RSP leadership blamed the closure of the gardens in the region on the government’s faulty policy. “We are reviewing our alliance with the CPM because of its anti-labour policy in tea gardens. We will go it alone in the panchayat elections,” Benoy Chakroborty, RSP’s Darjeeling district secretary, said.

The RSP will organise a public meeting in Siliguri next month to inform the people of the CPM’s anti-worker policies.

in tea industry.

“Our party is trying to get across a political message to the public by highlighting the numerous problems faced by the tea garden workers,” said Gobindo Dey, RSP Jalpaiguri district secretary.

Chakroborty said the RSP was not going to play a second fiddle to the CPM in he panchayat elections.

“The crisis plaguing the industry will be our main issue in the panchayat polls. We will also highlight what the CPM has done to Chandmoni workers.”

He said the CPM had declared Chandmoni commercially “unviable” without any survey.

“They have never explained why the made the decision to set up a township over there without trying to revive the ailing garden,” he added.

The RSP leader said most major gardens and unions had signed an agreement in 1969 that no workers would ever be laid off.

“But they are violating that agreement at Chandmoni, where the CPM is all for sacking the labourers to set up the township. The CPM has, in fact, been in favour of whittling down of labourers at several tea gardens in north Bengal. We strongly oppose the anti-labour policy,” he added.

Earlier, state minister for municipal affairs and Siliguri MLA Asok Bhattacharya had made a mockery of the RSP’s decision to extend support the bandh in Siliguri on February 4.

“We failed to understand the logic behind the RSP’s policy,” the minister had said, adding that every effort should be made to preserve the Left Frontunity.

Taking umbrage at Bhattacharya’s outburst, the RSP discussed the matter at length at the party’s convention in Calcutta on February 10.

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