March 24: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, a Dooars and Terai outfit that Trinamul had tried to rope in for a panchayat poll tie-up, today said the Congress is the “most suitable” option for an alliance.
“We cannot deny the minimum support base John Barla’s JMM has in the Dooars and Terai. Moreover, many adivasis might vote for Trinamul thanks to the chief minister’s frequent visits to the region and distribution of freebies to the people. So, we are sure that there will be a division of tribal votes,” said a Parishad leader after a meeting of the outfit’s office-bearers at Kalchini today.
“We cannot afford to take any chance under such circumstances and it is always better to have a major political party as an ally, with Congress being the most suitable one,” he said.
Around 200 leaders of the Parishad, with its state president Birsa Tirkey, from the Dooars took part in the meeting. Tirkey was cautious when he spoke about the possibility of alliance with any party for the rural elections, but dropped enough hints that the Congress had emerged its favourite choice.
“We had learnt lessons from the results of the 2011 Assembly polls when we had fielded Independents in all the seats in the Dooars. We failed to get even a single seat and do not want a repetition of the same (mistake) in the rural polls this year.,” Tirkey said.
“That is why we are ready to forge an alliance with any political party which is ready to take up issues related to socio-economic development of tribal people,” he said.
“Discussions are on at informal levels with some parties but we want to iterate that we will not tie up with any party which will have John Barla or the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha as an ally.”
Tirkey also ruled out the possibility of aligning with the Left or Trinamul in the panchayat polls. “We have seen the Trinamul Congress’s closeness to John Barla. The tribal population dislikes Left parties for their failure to meet basic demands of the people. The BJP does not have much support base in the region. So, there are not many options for the Parishad,” Tirkey said.
He did not mention the Congress, but left little room for doubt by ruling out all the other parties.
Tirkey said a case had been filed in a court in Jalpaiguri against Barla and another leader of the JMM, Sukra Munda, alleging that the duo had illegally used the flag, symbol and letterhead of the Parishad. “We filed a case in a Jalpaiguri court on February 8 against John Barla and Sukra Munda. Despite being driven out of the Parishad, they are illegally using our flag, seal and letterhead. The case will come up for hearing on April 10,” he said.
Barla was expelled from the Parishad for his support to the Morcha’s demand for the inclusion of the plains in the autonomous hill set-up.
The Congress today came out with its candidate list for Nagrakata block but it left several seats vacant. No one from the Congress mentioned the Parishad but Mohan Bose, the Jalpaiguri district Congress president who visited Nagrakata today to announce the the candidates, spoke of the “possibility of joining hands with regional parties”.
“We are not ruling out the possibility of joining hands with regional parties and organisations. Talks are on at different levels and there could be some developments soon,” Bose said today.
For the two zilla parishad seats in Nagrakata block, the candidate for one seat was announced, the other left vacant. For the panchayat samiti, there are 14 seats but eight have been left vacant. For panchayats, the Congress has left around 10 of the 91 seats vacant.
JMM meets Deb
A delegation of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) met minister Gautam Deb on Sunday and formally said that the tribal party was ready for an alliance with Trinamul for the rural polls in the Dooars.
Discussions among JMM and Trinamul had started last November.
“Today, we had held a meeting in Banarhat of Jalpaiguri in the presence of representatives from all the 11 blocks of the district where we have our organisation. At the meeting… we could reach at a consensus that in non-tea areas and villages in agricultural belts, we lack adequate support and need to ally with Trinamul,” said Sukra Munda, one of the leaders of the JMM in Dooars.
“After the decision, a team from our side visited Siliguri and met Gautam Deb in New Jalpaiguri area…. We formally informed him that we are ready to join hands with them for the rural polls. Our alliance with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the tea belt of Dooars, however, would continue.”
Deb, asked about the JMM, said: “Earlier, meetings were held with John Barla and his colleagues in different venues. The proposal was mooted and today, they came and confirmed that they are ready for the alliance.”
He added: “Now the decision has to be taken from our side. We will shortly convey this development to our state leaders and will act as per instructions from their end.”