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8 May 2017

Asok push for free election - Siliguri mayor asks people to defeat Trinamul in Raiganj

Asok Bhattacharya during the election campaign in Raiganj
KOUSIK SENADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AVIJIT SINHA IN SILIGURI, TT, Raiganj, May 7: Asok Bhattacharya today asked Left Front and Congress supporters to ensure that everyone voted freely in Raiganj civic elections on May 14 to ensure the defeat of the Trinamul Congress.
The Left Front and the Congress have struck an informal alliance for the Raiganj civic poll, on the line of the "Siliguri model" to keep Trinamul at bay.
The Congress has fielded candidates in 18 seats of Raiganj municipality, while the Left is contesting from nine wards. "Back in 2015, we could prevent Trinamul from carrying out any activity at any booth in the Siliguri civic area that can deter general voters from exercising their franchise. Trinamul has no base in Raiganj and it is obvious that if people can freely vote, the party will bite the dust here," said the Siliguri mayor.
In course of his campaign, the CPM leader iterated the need to vote freely, as he spoke to the general public, workers and supporters of both the Left and the Congress.
"It is up to each voter to decide whom he or she would vote. But you will have to ensure that each person of your ward or locality walks up to the booth and votes. If required, you should come out to ensure that your neighbour gets a free and fair chance to exercise his franchise," Bhattacharya told the voters, while walking through the wards.
The strategy, considered to be a part of "Siliguri model" or the move to join hands with the Congress, had worked in Siliguri subdivision in the Assembly polls.
It also led to the Left's win in the civic and rural polls.
During today's campaign, Bhattacharya walked with Mohit Sengupta, the Congress MLA of Raiganj and the immediate past chairman of the municipality. Workers of both the parties accompanied them. "We are contesting together to stop Trinamul," Sengupta said.
Bhattacharya's visit to Raiganj and his appeal to people while campaigning with the Congress leaders indicate how desperate he is to ensure the win of the Congress and Left candidates, observers said.
Out of 23 civic bodies in north Bengal, the Left Front is in power only at Siliguri Municipal Corporation. Trinamul is in power in 17 municipalities, while elections would be held to the remaining five civic bodies on May 14, including Raiganj.
"For the Congress, it is necessary to retain Raiganj. Otherwise, the party will not have any civic body in north Bengal. None of the rural bodies are with the Congress. For the same reason, Bhattacharya wants the Congress and the Left Front to win in Raiganj to prevent the complete hegemony of Trinamul," an observer said.
Although civic polls will also be held in four municipalities in the hills, the Left and Congress are redundant there. The Left has fielded candidates in some seats and the Congress is not contesting at all in the hills.
"They are aware that in the hills, the contest is between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and Trinamul. That is why the complete focus of the Left and Congress is on Raiganj now," the observer said.
In another development, the North Dinajpur district Left Front has filed a complaint with the state election commission.
"The SDO of Raiganj is the returning officer of the municipal polls. He is also the chairman of the board of administrators of the civic body and Amal Acharjee, the Itahar MLA and district Trinamul president, is a member on the board of administrators. We don't think free and fair elections can be held in such a situation. So, we have written to the state election commission, mentioning that the official should be either removed from the post at the civic body or some other official should be appointed as the returning officer," Bhattacharya said.

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