John Barla shakes hands with a participant at the workers’ meeting at Lakkhipara on Sunday. Telegraph picture
Nov. 25: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and tribal leader John Barla today said they were set to tie up with the Trinamul Congress to contest the panchayat polls in the Dooars and Terai, and a final nod from the ruling party in the state would seal the deal.
The possible alliance is touted to be a boon for Trinamul which lacks base among adivasis and tea garden workers.
Leaders of the Gorkha outfit and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, to which Barla belongs, held a workers’ conference on the Lakkhipara Tea Estate in Banarhat today under the banner of the Dooars Terai Joint Action Co-ordination Committee. The president of the committee, Barla, said he had already held talks with Trinamul leader and state minister Gautam Deb on the formation of the alliance and was awaiting a response from Mamata Banerjee’s party.
“The prospects of an alliance were discussed at a close-door meeting I had with Deb at Mongpong 10 days back. At the meeting, it was decided that the minister would call us again after talking to his leaders. We feel it is just a matter of time before Trinamul leaders communicate their decision formally to us,” said Barla.
At today’s meeting at Lakkhipara, 75km from Siliguri, the leaders of the Morcha and the JMM briefed the workers on the parley with Trinamul.
Raju Bara, the general secretary of the north Bengal regional committee of the JMM, said the meeting showed that his party still wielded clout in the plains. “It has been proved that a campaign by a section of people (Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad) against us is wrong. They were saying we had lost our support base following the exclusion of the Dooars and Terai from the jurisdiction of the GTA. The turnout at today’s meeting shows our influence,” said Bara.
He said the goal of the alliance was to free panchayats from corruption.
“We intend to contest together with Trinamul and Morcha and bag as many seats as possible to help the deprived populace of the Dooars and Terai by extending the benefits of welfare schemes provided through panchayats. The panchayats have become centres of corruption and malpractice and we want to put an end to it,” said the tribal leader.
According to Bara, alliance would prevent multiplicity of candidates in the polls. “If the JMM, Morcha and Trinamul can field common candidates, there will be less number of people in the fray. As far as the agendas and programmes of the three parties are concerned, they want the development of the region.”
Bara said the JMM and the Morcha were planning to bring in Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren and GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung to hold joint rallies in the Terai and Dooars next month.
Morcha leaders like Hemant Gautam and Madhukar Thapa, who were present at today’s meeting, also said the alliance would boost the winning chances of the three parties in the elections.
“We have no reservations about Trinamul becoming a part of the alliance as the party supports most of our causes and demands. The alliance would substantially augment our support base and help corner a large chunk of votes,” said Thapa.
The meeting that started at 12pm and ended at 4.30pm also resolved to organise demonstrations at block and panchayat levels across the Terai and the Dooars on a number of issues. “There are huge anomalies in the distribution of work under the MGNREG scheme. Also, lakhs of tea workers are yet to get secured land tenures of their properties. With these two issues in mind, we will soon launch an agitation that will also help us prepare our workers for the elections,” said Barla.
Observers said the alliance would boost Trinamul’s prospects in the elections.
“The main constraint of Trinamul is that it lacks tribal leaders and a base on tea estates. Its trade union is new and is yet to create a base in the brew belt. Further, the Dooars and Terai are still known to be strongholds of the Congress and the Left, though the Morcha and Parishad are slowly making a foray into one garden after another. So, the alliance would largely help Trinamul,” said an observer.