Trinamool fights back for control of Bengal civic bodies

Trinamool fights back for control of Bengal civic bodies

Battle for West Bengal. (IANS Infographics)

Kolkata, July 25 (IANS) A no-holds barred political war is on in West Bengal between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the aggressive opposition BJP, with the rivals engaged in a close and often violent duel for control of civic bodies. The intense battles for municipalities are even being played out in the legal corridors. Soon after its Lok Sabha poll successes in the state, the BJP seemed to have taken the upper hand as over 50 councilors of three municipalities joined its fold by deserting the Trinamool. As a result, the Trinamool lost control of the boards in Halishahar, Naihati and Kanchrapara municipalities in North 24 Parganas district. Powered by the might of its new MP from Barrackpore Arjun Singh, the BJP continued its march to engineer defections from Trinamool, as Bhatpara followed suit. Further north of the state, the Darjeeling municipality also came BJP's way when 17 Gorkha Janmukti Morcha councillors crossed over to the saffron camp. However, BJP's initial euphoria got muted in the coming months as the Trinamool fought back with lot of gusto to reclaim the civic bodies either by engineering defections or by installing administrators. The Banerjee led administration appointed an administrator in Naihati, thereby thwarting the BJP's advance in the civic body where 17 Trinamool councilors had changed sides in Dehi soon after the polls to reduce the ruling party to a minority in the 31-ward body. There is even much speculation that at least four of the Naihati councilors who had crossed over to the BJP are now in safehouses provided by the Trinamool and would rejoin their old party at an opportune time. The Trinamool leadership is also reportedly in talks with four other councilors who had also crossed over to the BJP. Once the talks are successful, the administrator is likely to be removed with the Trinamol forming the board, party sources said. But Trinamool made its most successful counter-attack at Kanchrapara, where it brought back in its ambit 14 of the deserters less than two weeks back, to once again regain the majority in the municipality. Similarly, in Halishahar, nine of the councillors who had joined the BJP, have returned to the Trinamool. But Halishahar's fate now depends on the judiciary, with the Calcutta High Court ordering an interim stay on a no-trust vote against its chairman. Another municipality Bongaon in North 24 Parganas district is also now in a legal tangle following dispute over a confidence vote, held amid high drama and confusion with Trinamool Congress and BJP councilors both claiming majority. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said inability of the Trinamool councillors to adapt to the strong disciplinary set-up of his party and the blatant use of the police and administration to threaten them forced them to return to their parent party. "The police is putting pressure, their houses are being damaged, not everybody is able to cope with such pressure," Ghosh told IANS. On the other hand, state Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick accused the BJP of engineering the defections under duress. "Many of them had been made to join the BJP with a revolver pointed at them. "But in their heat of heart, they were always with the Trinamool and Mamata Banerjee. They were feeling suffocated in BJP. So they are returning," said Mullick, the North 24 Parganas district president of Trinamool.

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