The Telegraph
Monday , February 25 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Barla poll pot has Morcha,Trinamul

Siliguri, Feb. 24: Tribal leader John Barla today said the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha would align with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the tea garden belt but with the Trinamul Congress in other areas of the Dooars and Terai in the coming panchayat elections.

The JMM leader’s announcement would put an end to confusion among voters as he was seen hobnobbing with Trinamul after announcing a tie-up with the Morcha to contest the rural polls.

“In the tea gardens of Dooars and Terai, tribals and Gorkhas have been residing over decades. We have decided that in these tea belts, we will contest jointly with the Morcha at the ensuing rural polls. However, given the political scenario in smaller towns, villages and forest villages of Siliguri sub-division and Dooars, we will contest as an ally of Trinamul.”

“Further, once the elections are over and it is found that Trinamul needs our support to form boards in panchayats, panchayat samitis and in the Jalpaiguri zilla parishad or Siliguri mahakuma parishad, we will not hesitate to extend support to the party,” Barla added.

The tribal leader was instrumental in assembling people for a programme attended by chief minister Mamata in Nagrakata in December last year. The tribal leader also led a delegation to Calcutta early this month and held talks with the chief minister regarding various demands of the adivasis like land rights and socio-economic development of the community.

Barla clarified that the JMM wouldn’t hesitate to back Trinamul if Mamata’s party wanted to form boards in panchayats, panchayat samitis and in the Jalpaiguri zilla parishad or Siliguri mahakuma parishad.

Observers said the JMM’s decision to enter into an electoral understanding with the Morcha and Trinamul was based on the demography and the present political situation in the plains.

“The Gorkhas and the adivasis form the majority of the population in the Terai and the Dooars. While the Gorkhas owe their allegiance to the Morcha, the adivasis are inclined towards the JMM to a large extent as was evident from the response to recent bandh. Despite the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad’s support to the strike, tea garden hands joined work in most of the estates in the plains,” said an observer.

Barla had exhorted garden workers not to join the strike as they would be the losers in wages.

But outside the tea belt in the plains, different political parties have their dedicated supporters.

“Barla has followers among the adivasis who are not in the majority in these areas. In case Trinamul joins hands with Barla, it would be a big gain for the party,” said the observer.

The proposal for the tie-up has come as a big boost for Trinamul.

“Trinamul, which is desperate to gain support in the Dooars, inducted some former Morcha leaders on Friday. Now if Barla stands by the party and campaigns in villages and towns, Trinamul would naturally enjoy additional support and outwit rivals such as the Left and the Congress. Trinamul doesn’t have a tribal leader as of now,” said a senior Trinamul leader in the Darjeeling district.

Administrative sources said the ratio of total seats in all the three tiers of panchayats in the tea belt to other areas in the plains is 3:2.

“Considering the dismal performance of Trinamul in the 2008 rural polls and the Assembly polls of 2011 in the Terai and Dooars, it would be an achievement for the party in case it bags a good number of seats in the non-tea belt. Even today, it lacks a trade union base and is entirely dependant on the popularity of Mamata Banerjee in the region,” said a Trinamul leader.