The Telegraph
Saturday , March 22 , 2014
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TMC factions in patch-up mode

Bolpur, March 21: Two Trinamul factions in Birbhum’s Bolpur are taking initiatives to bury their differences to ensure the party’s victory in a Lok Sabha seat that the Left has been winning for close to 60 years.

Trinamul sources said the two warring groups in Bolpur were led by Birbhum unit chief Anubrata Mondal and Ketugram MLA Sheikh Shahnawaz and his brother Sheikh Kajal.

The sources said Trinamul leaders in Birbhum had realised that it would be tough to defeat sitting MP Ram Chandra Dom of the CPM if the factions did not bury the hatchet, especially because this is the first time Bengal is going to witness a four-cornered fight in the Lok Sabha elections.

“Our leader Mamata Banerjee has said several times that factionalism will not be tolerated and everyone will have to work together for the elections,” a Trinamul leader said.

He said Dom had defeated the Congress candidate by a margin of 1.26 lakh votes in the 2009 general election. Trinamul and the Congress had tied up for the 2009 polls.

“The CPM candidate had taken handsome leads in the Bolpur, Nanoor, Ketugram and Labhpur Assembly segments. We have been told to unite so that we can defeat the CPM candidate this time,” the Trinamul leader said.

Trinamul has fielded first-timer Anupam Hazra in Bolpur, a seat the Left has been winning since 1957. Hazra, 32, is a Visva-Bharati teacher.

The Trinamul sources said the state leadership had given Mondal the responsibility of ensuring that the factions sorted out their differences.

Mondal, who has often been accused of making provocative speeches, has held a series of meetings in Bolpur and Nanoor with grassroots workers of both factions. He has instructed them to jointly campaign for Hazra.

Mondal and Shahnawaz are expected to be present at a workers’ meeting in Nanoor on March 28.

“Factional rivalry cost us dear in the panchayat polls last year. Rebel Trinamul leaders who contested as Independents won all panchayats in Nanoor and four in Bolpur. All these dissidents belong to the faction led by Shahnawaz and Kajal. The CPM won a zilla parishad seat in Nanoor because this faction did not campaign,” a district Trinamul leader who owes allegiance to Mondal said.

The faction led by Shahnawaz and Kajal holds sway over Nanoor, Bolpur and Ketugram.

“Trinamul dissidents control many panchayats in these areas and if they want, they can create problems for us in the Lok Sabha elections. If the party looses the seat because of the factional feud, it will be a discredit for Mondal as he is the district Trinamul chief,” said another leader belonging to Mondal’s camp.

Kajal told The Telegraph his faction had laid down two “conditions” for a united fight. “First, Mondal’s camp has to help our supporters fight cases lodged against them when the CPM was in power. Second, the party will have to look after the families of those killed in the 2000 Suchpur massacre and other political clashes,” he said.

Asked about Kalaj’s comments, Mondal said: “Why should I speak about this? We have already appointed Sheikh Shahnawaz and Gadadhar Hazra (the Nanoor MLA who belongs to Mondal’s camp) as joint observers of the Nanoor and Ketugram Assembly segments.”