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8 Apr 2017

Test for 'Siliguri model'

TT, Siliguri, April 7: Mayor Asok Bhattacharya today said the Left Front had sought the support of the Congress in the election to choose the chairman of borough III at the Siliguri Municipal Corporation on April 11, though the Congress had already said it would abstain from the voting.
Bhattacharya's overture to the Congress shows that he is trying hard to keep alive the famous "Siliguri model" in which the Left Front and the Congress came together informally to defeat Trinamul in Assembly, civic and rural polls.
The borough III chairman's post fell vacant following the resignation of the incumbent, Sujoy Ghatak, of the Congress in January, saying the Left Front board was biased against the wards of Congress councillors in allocation of funds.
The borough III is a cluster of 10 wards. While the Trinamul Congress and the Left represent four wards each, the two other seats are with the Congress. Ghatak had already declared that he and the other Congress councillor would abstain from the voting.
"If the Congress stays away, there will be a tie and the chairman will be chosen through a toss. The mayor does not want to leave any chance for Trinamul to bag the post as there are four more boroughs and the Left and Trinamul hold two each of them," said a CPM leader, who didn't want to be named.
The mayor today said he had already sought the support from the Congress in the borough election. "We have sought support from the Congress. Now, it is up to that party to decide," said Bhattacharya.
Sources said he was so desperate to stop Trinamul from securing the post that he had even proposed to the Congress that Ghatak or the other Congress councillor could contest and the Left would support him.
Observers said the Left and the Congress needed each other's support as elections to Raiganj municipality were round the corner. Raiganj was the only municipality that was under the Congress's control in north Bengal last year.
Mohit Sengupta, the Raiganj Congress MLA and the immediate past chairman of the civic body, has good relations with Bhattacharya. There are indications that both the parties might go for an "adjustment of seats" to defeat Trinamul in Raiganj.
"If the Congress does not support the Left here in Siliguri, it might affect the decision in Raiganj. The mayor and the Raiganj MLA do not want it," said an observer.
In such a situation, the observers said, the mayor might approach the PCC president or other Congress leaders to mount pressure on the two Congress councillors here to change their decision and support the Left candidate in the borough election.
"It is a matter of existence for both the Congress and the CPM as far as civic bodies are concerned. While the Congress needs the Raiganj municipality, Asok needs consistent support from the Congress to run the SMC board," the observer said.

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