|Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel patrol Siliguri on Sunday. (Kundan Yolmo)
Jaigaon, March 13: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad will contest from six Assembly seats in the Dooars and Terai with the support of the Congress. The candidates will be finalised by March 18 on the basis of feedback on probable names from Parishad members at the grassroots level.
State general secretary of the outfit Tezkumar Toppo said Parishad members today endorsed the deal struck with the Congress. The announcement was made after a three-hour meeting between the Parishad team that met senior Congress leaders in Delhi last week and about 300 members at Banarhat this afternoon.
Not that the decision was unanimous. Raju Bara, the convener of the Parishad’s election core committee, resigned from his post today, saying he did not like the manner in which the alliance was forged.
“I had a disagreement with our state general secretary yesterday over the issue and I have decided to resign from the election committee. I sent my letter (my resignation) through my supporters to the Banarhat meeting which I will not attend,” said Raju Bara, without elaborating what the differences were. Toppo, however, denied having received the resignation letter. He said the Congress had been told that the outfit would field candidates in Kalchini, Kumargram, Madarihat, Nagrakata, Malbazar and Phansidewa, all reserved for the ST category.
Of the six seats, only Kalchini had been wrested by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-supported Wilson Chompromary in the 2009 by-election. The rest are with the Left Front. The tribals are in a majority in the region.
“We discussed the talks we had with Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmed Patel and other Congress leaders. All (our members) were in agreement regarding the understanding,” Toppo said.
On March 8, the Parishad, during its initial round of talks with Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, had demanded a written assurance from the Congress that it would work for Sixth Schedule status for the Terai-Dooars region as soon as the polls were over.
However, the next day, Union finance minister Mukherjee convinced the tribal leaders that an agreement could not be inked as it would violate the model code of conduct. The Congress would, instead, mention the Adivasi demand in its election manifesto.
Toppo said the Parishad’s block-level units had been asked to come up with names of possible candidates. “We have made it clear that these persons should be honest, hardworking and socially committed,” Toppo said.
Jalpaiguri district Congress president Mohan Bose said he would say nothing about the Parishad and his party’s alliance. “Our state president Manas Bhuniya will come to the district soon and he will make the announcements,” Bose said.