The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Opposition & ally stain CPM slate

Calcutta, June 24: The CPM’s sweeping march in the panchayat poll continued in the municipal elections held last Sunday but a grand alliance of the Opposition forces at the ground level jolted it on the way.

A combined Opposition bagged Diamond Harbour in South 24-Parganas and Dubrajpur in Birbhum.

After a virtual “red wash” in the panchayat election in May and in the byelections to the Nabadwip parliamentary and Vidyasagar Assembly constituencies early this month, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, the Congress and the BJP appeared to have made significant gains in the municipal polls.

“We have paid a price for failure to read ground realities,” said Asit Bose, former chairman of the outgoing CPM-run Diamond Harbour civic board. “Besides, Trinamul and other Opposition parties had gone into an alliance and backed it by all means.”

The CPM, however, unseated the Trinamul-BJP combine at Habra in North 24-Parganas and retained its strongholds — Panihati, Burdwan, Guskara, Chakda, Mekliganj and the newly-constituted Dalkhola.

In Balurghat, the CPM received a major blow from its Left Front ally, the RSP. The Marxists won 5 seats out of the 21 they had contested in the 23-member municipal board. The RSP got 17 and the Congress one.

The CPM had put up 21 candidates against RSP nominees but lost miserably to the ally, which has been running the municipality for the past 22 years.

Politburo member Biman Bose attributed the CPM’s performance in Balurghat to lack of understanding with the RSP. “It is unfortunate that the parties failed to reach an adjustment and fought each other. But I must say Balurghat municipality is still being run by the front,” he said.

The RSP leaders were upbeat. “We have been running the municipality for the past 22 years. This time, the CPM tried hard to dislodge us. It was very unfortunate. The CPM, being the largest partner in the front, should have made greater sacrifices to maintain unity among the allies. But the party tried to wrest the seats we had won last time,” said senior RSP leader and former minister Kshiti Goswami.

The party’s state secretary, Debabrata Banerjee, said they had improved tally from 13 to 17 in Balurghat. The CPM had won seven seats in the last election.

The mahajot (grand alliance) of the Congress and the Trinamul-BJP trounced the front Big Brother in Diamond Harbour.

It also appeared set to form boards at Midnapore and Dubrajpur. At Haldibari and Alipurduar, the Congress is in a position to form boards on its own. It has won 9 and 13 seats out of 11 and 20. Former state Congress chief Somen Mitra said the party will not hesitate to seek Trinamul’s support to keep the CPM at bay at Diamond Harbour, Midnapore and Dubrajpur. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and Trinamul MLA Pankaj Banerjee welcomed Mitra’s proposition.

Front flak for Surjya

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra and his department came under severe criticism from the RSP and the Forward Bloc for the child deaths in Murshidabad.

At a front meeting this morning, the allies, however, complemented the chief minister’s role.

Mishra was summoned to the meeting as panchayat minister because the front was supposed to decide on a formula for selecting its panchayat office bearers. But he left after 10 minutes as he had to attend a Cabinet meeting.

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