June 4: The Trinamul Congress and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad have sealed a seat-sharing deal for the two lower tiers of the panchayat elections in the Dooars.
The Parishad and Trinamul reached the agreement to share seats in the gram panchayats and panchayat samitis. An understanding is yet to be reached on the Jalpaiguri zilla parishad seats.
Both sides are yet to work out the number of seats to be contested by each of them in the lower tiers. The seat-sharing talks have been left to block level leaders on both sides.
As the Parishad is not a political party, it will back Independent candidates of its choice. Wherever Trinamul puts up candidates, the Parishad will support them.
The submission of nominations for the elections to the three-tier panchayat system in Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, South Dinajpur and North Dinajpur districts begins tomorrow and the polls will be held on July 9.
“Over the past two years, the state government met a number of our demands raised by the Parishad. They include leave for Karam Puja (a festival among tribals before Durga Puja), formation of a separate tribal welfare department, establishment of a Hindi college and the decision to form the Dooars Terai Development Council,” said Tez Kumar Toppo, the state general secretary of the Parishad, today.
“These initiatives have paved the path for forging an alliance with Trinamul,” he said. “Both the Parishad and Trinamul have agreed to field common candidates in the polls to gram panchayats and panchayat samitis. Discussions are in progress regarding zilla parishad seats,” he added.
The Jalpaiguri zilla parishad has 34 seats of which around 12 are in the Dooars.
Panchayat elections will not be held in the Terai as it comes under the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad.
Rajesh Lakra, the general secretary of the Dooars Terai regional unit of the Parishad, said that according to the agreement with the Parishad, the tribal outfit would field independent candidates in the seats allotted to it. “The block-level leaders of the Parishad have been entrusted with the task of finalising the sharing of seats with Trinamul,” he said.
Observers said the alliance with the Parishad was a major boost for Trinamul. “The Parishad is known for its anti-Morcha stance. By joining hands with the Parishad, Trinamul can woo the adivasis and a section of the Gorkhas who are disappointed with the Morcha leadership’s alleged neglect,” said an observer.
Trinamul said the alliance with the Parishad was the result of various steps taken by the state government to improve the standard of life of the tribals.
“After Trinamul came to power, consistent initiatives were taken to improve the socio-economic condition of the adivasis. The Parishad has appreciated Trinamul’s governance,” said Chandan Bhowmik, the Jalpaiguri district president of Trinamul.
He said Trinamul’s block committees would hold talks with Parishad leaders and sort out seat-sharing. Bhowmik also said: “Trinamul has not forged an alliance with John Barla or any political party.”
Barla, who is a leader of the JMM in the Dooars and Terai, didn’t hide his displeasure over Trinamul forming an alliance with the Parishad, even after several rounds of discussions with him.
“It is an open secret that we had tried to join hands with Trinamul but for some reason or the other, nothing could be worked out. We are not ready to look back and we will contest the polls in alliance with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha,” he said.
Madhukar Thapa, a central committee member of the Morcha from the Dooars, echoed Barla.