A day after North Bengal Development Minister Goutam Deb claimed that Trinamool Congress will form the board of Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC), the party on Monday decided to sit in Opposition in the civic body.
The decision was taken when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met the winning councillors after she returned from the Indo-Nepal border at Pani Tanki, where she had gone to hand over relief materials for earthquake victims.
She met 16 of the 17 Trinamool councillors at Uttarkanya in Siliguri with Deb and party MLA Rudra Nath Bhattacharya. Ward 17 Councillor Shukla Deb was out of town. “A meeting was held today about the natural calamity at Nepal and how we should extend our help to the affected,” Bhattacharya said.
The CPM-led Left Front had captured 23 of the 47 seats in SMC polls while the Trinamool bagged 17 seats.
On Sunday, Deb had said: “The 47 elected councillors will vote for our Chairman and we will form the board… People of Siliguri don’t want the return of red terror once more.” In a retort, former state minister and CPM leader Ashok Bhattacharya had said: “He seems to have forgotten simple arithmetic. The desperation of TMC shows the countdown for its fall which has started.”
When contacted, Bhattacharya said: “I had predicted this. There was no way for them to have formed the board. What Gautam Deb was trying to say didn’t make any sense.”
Mamata’s visit came at a time when most CPM councillors were out of Siliguri. When asked, Bhattacharya said: “That’s not true. Me and seven other councillors are visiting Darjeeling with our families. We didn’t want to stay back for anyone to allege that we tried to create trouble during the Trinamool meeting.”
State Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said his party was equidistant from both CPM and Trinamool. On Mamata’s decision to occupy the Opposition benches in SMC, he said: “Trinamool thought it will threaten or buy other councillors. Since that did not happen, she has agreed to be in the Opposition. Had she taken this decision earlier, there would have been no need for Gautam Deb to stage such a drama.”
He added that CPM’s success in Siliguri was actually Asok Bhattacharya’s success. “He has been the architect of Siliguri city. He was a performing minister. The state party leadership would not like to agree but CPM in Siliguri is different from CPM in the rest of Bengal,” said Chowdhury.
When contacted, BJP MLA Shamik Bhattacharya said: “Trinamool’s lust for power had prodded them to go for horse trading to form the board. But it has failed. The mandate is against TMC. Everyone should respect it. Helping Trinamool will be going against the people’s mandate.”