Trinamul heavyweights in hill civic election fray

The Trinamul Congress has decided to go all guns blazing in the civic polls, with the party not only deciding to field just senior district leaders but also line up a number of ministers to oversee the party's preparedness for the elections.

Trinamul today announced the names of 14 candidates for the Darjeeling polls. The names include N.B. Khawash, working president of the Darjeeling Trinamul (hills), Sharda Rai Subba , the party's candidate from Darjeeling seat in the last Assembly election and president of the women's wing in the hills, and Milan Dukpa, nominated GTA Sabha member.

Khawash, apart from being one of the most visible faces in Darjeeling for Trinamul, was also a three-time Gorkha National Liberation Front councillor in the erstwhile Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council from Sonada-Tung constituency.

While Khawash will be contesting from ward number 20, Dukpa and Rai have been given tickets for ward numbers 13 and 32, respectively.

Asked about the party's decision to field heavyweights from Darjeeling, Rajen Mukhia, the Trinamul president (hills), said: "We are confident of our victory and want to provide a better administration and proper development to this place."

Apart from fielding its senior most leaders in Darjeeling, Trinamul has also entrusted some state ministers to oversee the party's poll preparedness.

"Gautam Deb (minister for tourism) has been made the party observer for Darjeeling, Rabindranath Ghosh (North Bengal development department minister) is in charge of Kurseong. Saurav Chakraborty (chairman, Siliguri-Jalpaiguri Development Authority) will be camping in Mirik while Mohan Sharma (president of TMC trade union and party president of Alipurduar district) is the observer for Kalimpong," said Mukhia.

Apart from the senior Trinamul leaders' presence in the hills as observers, the party has also decided to bring in senior ministers Aroop Biswas, Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Mukherjee for campaigning.

"The senior leaders will be in the hills for the campaign after the filing of nomination is over (the last day for this process is April 24)," said Mukhia.

The polls are scheduled in the hills for May14.

Observers believe that the party is taking a huge risk by fielding senior leaders in Darjeeling.

"If they win their seats, it would be a master stroke but in the event of senior leaders losing even a municipality seat, it would be cause for major embarrassment for the party and hit the morale for its cadres in other elections," said an observer.

The hills are due to face panchayat and the crucial GTA elections this year.

"Given the stature of the Trinamul leaders, they should ideally have been fielded in the crucial GTA election. But then every party has its own strategy and it would be wrong to comment on their thoughts," said the observer.

Representatives of the All India Minority Organisation (AIMO) today said in Siliguri they would support the Trinamul candidates in the polls.

Nasir Ahmed, the AIMO chairman, said: "We are working for socio-economically backward people and appreciate the developmental work taken up by Mamata Banerjee. That is why have decided to support all candidates of Trinamul in the municipal elections."

In support of the Trinamul candidates, the AIMO has planned two conventions. The first convention, Ahmed said, would be held in Sukna, located around 10km from Siliguri under Kurseong sub-division, on May 5 while the second would be held in Kalimpong on May 6.

"AIMO is known to be close to Trinamul. The organisation's decision to back the party's candidates in the hills might help Trinamul in garnering votes from the minority communities. However, the party also faces a challenge. After the state's decision to form a development board for minorities in the hills, representatives of different organisations of minorities have already demanded creation of separate boards," a political observer said.

Vivek Chhetri and Avijit Sinha

In pic: (From left) NB Khawash, Sharda Rai Subba and Milan Dukpa


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