Early Thursday, CPM leader Binda Karat called up Siliguri Mayor Ashok Bhattacharya to congratulate him for the party’s win in the October 3 Siliguri District Council polls. Brinda was jubilant that the party, which defeated the ruling Trinamool Congress, had received over 70,000 posts on Facebook within a few hours after the poll results were declared on Wednesday.
Former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly — a long-time friend of Bhattacharya — too called up. “Sourav is not a political ally but a friend and has been an well wisher… More than the big names, ordinary grassroot cadres seem to have become charged up. They are calling up to appreciate the fight against heavy odds in Bengal,” he said.
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Wednesday’s results may not immediately impact West Bengal politics in a big way, but Bhattacharya — touted to be the architect behind the victories in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation polls in May and the October 3 elections — has managed to work out a new political model, under which, BJP, Congress and Left have come together to fight Trinamool as a “common mission”.
“It is a rainbow coalition without any official seal, but born out of the sheer urge to defeat the Trinamool Congress,” said Bhattacharya.
In the Siliguri Municipal Corporation polls, the Opposition as a whole had decided to come together to offer a combined resistance if the polls were not free and fair. “We had termed it — ‘Prevent Vote Loot by TMC’… our second slogan was ‘Siliguri Bachao, TMC Hatao’… There was also the campaign to vote for the ‘most winnable’ candidate in each seat and against the Trinamool nominee,” said Bhattacharya.
He added: “We were able to convince the people and other parties that the anti-Trinamool votes should not get split and get consolidated for the most winnable candidate.”
The CPM won 23 of the 47 wards while the Trinamool got 17 in the May polls. The Congress had four and BJP two. An Independent candidate, who won, also supported the Left, allowing them to achieve the magic figure of 24 out of 47 seats to form the board. In the district council polls held on October 3, out of the nine seats, while CPM bagged six, the rest went to Trinamool.
A mass leader, Bhattacharya became a communist party member in Siliguri in 1968. He made a mark as the chairman of Siliguri municipality in 1988, having transformed it into a modern township. In 1991, he became a MLA for the first time and was appointed the state municipal affairs minister. For the next three terms, he was elevated to the post of a cabinet minister, which he remained till he lost in the 2011 Assembly polls in the state.
Trinamool leaders, however, scoff at Bhattacharya’s idea of a rainbow coalition — being dubbed as the ‘Siliguri model’. “In politics, we have no model. In beauty contests, we have models waking the ramp. What the CPM has done is an unscrupulous coalition of vested interests,” said Subrata Mukherjee — the seniormost minister in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet.