The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Civic flip-flop in a fortnight

Chinsurah (Hooghly), Aug. 22: Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress and the Congress are back where they were, thanks to squabbles within.

A fortnight after “re-wresting” Hooghly-Chinsurah municipality from the Left Front, the Opposition lost control of the board today. “Cross-voting” during election to the post of chairman dislodged the alliance.

The Opposition combine had captured the municipality after the civic polls in 2000. In the 30-seat civic board, Trinamul had 12 seats and the Congress 4. The front had 14 seats, including the CPM’s 11, two of the RSP and one of the Forward Bloc.

Six months ago, the CPM-led front had ousted the alliance comprising Trinamul and the Congress from power. On December 24, the front had tabled a no-confidence motion to cash in on the strained relations between the municipality chairman and two Trinamul councillors. On January 4, the front took control of the board with support from the Trinamul dissidents.

On August 8, the front slipped from power as the two Trinamul members who had voted for the Left earlier returned to their parent party during a no-trust vote.

The rebel councillors had promised to help Trinamul re-wrest the civic board if the leadership replaced chairman Asish Sen. They demanded that Gouri Kanta Mukherjee be chosen instead. Hooghly president of the party and MP Akbar Ali Khondakar was said to be backing Mukherjee.

But when the election to the post of chairman was conducted today through secret ballot, with Mukherjee as the Trinamul nominee against CPM’s Barun Ganguly, the cracks in the Opposition alliance became apparent.

Despite having 16 members, the Trinamul-Congress alliance bagged only 14 votes. The Left, which has 14 members, won 15 votes. One vote was declared invalid.

Let down by the decision to declare a vote cast by a councillor invalid, Trinamul leaders said the party would move court. The leadership also submitted a memorandum to subdivisional officer C.C. Guha demanding that the vote be declared valid.

Trinamul leader Tapan Dasgupta admitted that a party member had voted for the Left. The party will probe the “back-stabbing”, he said. “We lost the board though we had won the no-confidence move a fortnight ago. We should first set our own house in order before fighting the Left Front,” he added.

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