Deepa backs rebels under Sonia nose MP pleads for Congress 'soldiers'

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  • Published 16.04.11

Islampur, April 15: Deepa Das Munshi today openly defied the Congress leadership and campaigned for suspended rebel candidates in Islampur and Chopra when party chief Sonia Gandhi addressed public meetings in next-door Malda district.

The Congress MP arrived at the Daspara football grounds in Chopra around 4pm and spoke for 20 minutes in support of Hamidul Rehman who is contesting against alliance candidate Sheikh Jalaluddin of Trinamul.

“The soil of Chopra belongs to the Congress. We are the ones who tend to the crops growing here. We will not tolerate anyone snatching away our produce. This will not be allowed. Vote to keep intact the prestige and the honour of the Congress, vote for a soldier of the Congress. Show everyone that there is no alternative to the Congress in the ballot boxes here,” Deepa told a gathering of about 7,000 people before she started for Islampur, which is part of her parliamentary constituency, Raiganj. Chopra is in Darjeeling parliamentary constituency. The MP, who is the backbone of the Congress in North Dinajpur, is also accused of backing Chittaranjan Roy, another rebel, in Hemtabad. All the three rebels had been suspended by the Congress.

From the morning, the buzz in Islampur was that Deepa would travel 110km from Raiganj to address the rally here in support of Kanhaialal Agarwal, who is also the chairman of the Islampur municipality. Supporters of the rebel candidate announced over loudspeakers that Deepa would address a meeting at Chopra as well.

The MP’s attendance at the rebels’ campaigns comes a day after she told a media conference in Raiganj that she was in favour of the Trinamul-Congress alliance although she would campaign only for her party’s candidates. She had even said the allegation that she was backing the rebels was being levelled by a section of the media. Earlier, Sakeel Ahmed, the Congress’s minder in Bengal, and state Congress president Manas Bhuniya had said Deepa had assured them that she would honour the alliance although it is known that she has no love lost for the Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

Deepa arrived in Islampur a little after five in the evening and spoke from a dais erected on the same grounds at the Islampur High School where Mamata Banerjee held her election meeting in favour of Abdul Karim yesterday.

The Trinamul chief had urged the people of North Dinajpur "not to listen to the poll cuckoo”, in a veiled reference to Deepa.

Although Deepa did not chirp back in retaliation to the bird barb, she had a few posers for the crowd.

“The problem created here was created here because nothing was decided on the alliance at the district level. The Congress is an organised party here and that is why we had asked for the (four) seats. The leader (read Mamata) is in favour of change, she wants a change. She has been welcoming the united voice of the people against the Left, but she did not do so in North Dinajpur (where she imposed herself on us). Ask her, why?” she said, adding: “That is why you should vote for the Congress candidate.”

Without naming Mamata once, Deepa said an alliance had been struck between the two parties during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls too but an attempt was made to queer her pitch as Abdul Karim contested the Raiganj seat as an Independent candidate.

“That bandanna man (oi phetti-badha lokta) stood against me. Ask why the alliance was not honoured here then. Her candidate here is in and out of all parties. Will you vote for such a person?” she asked.

From 1996 to 2001, Abdul Karim had doggedly carried out a protest against conversion of farmland into small tea gardens by wearing a bandanna around his head. Finally, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had to assure him in the Assembly that no more such land would be converted into tea gardens before he took it off. Since then, the eight-time MLA had been identified with his bandanna and his theatrical way of protests. Last month he had refused to seek bail for a rail roko arrest, saying he had been “unjustly” hauled up by the court.

Deepa did not mention the names of the rebel candidates in any of the places. She asked the crowd: “Whom will you vote for?” The crowd yelled either “Hamidul” or “Kanhaialal”, depending on where she asked the questions.

At both the meetings she avoided reporters and left the venues promptly.

Pabitra Chanda, the Congress general secretary of the district, said Deepa was an MP and an AICC member. “Let the high command decide what they want with her, I cannot comment,” Chanda said.

District Trinamul president Asim Ghosh said Deepa was a CPM stooge. “She has been given a lot of money by the CPM and she is spreading it around and creating a very bad atmosphere before the polls,” Ghosh said.