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BJP a disappointment in Siliguri, split verdict may help Congress

SILIGURI : After the anti-climsax in Kolkata, the BJP bubble may burst again in the ensuing civic poll in Siliguri, slated on April 25. Though BJP is expected to wrest a share of the vote bank of the Left Front, it may not repeat in the civic polls its performance in the last Lok Sabha poll, when it had led in 22 wards of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation. The story of the civic poll may be a different story that of Lok Sabha polls because the issues are different and individual candidates have a bigger role to play in a civic poll than in a parliamentary poll where it is the party concerned which is important. Besides, the voters have witnessed an unsavoury fight for party tickets and agitations against the local-level leadership of BJP during their distribution, accompanying by allegations of corruption. There have also been a number of desertions from BJP to Trinamool Congress. The chances of BJP in some wards may be bolstered, however, by the support the party has received from Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. 

It was the GJM support which had ensured the victory of BJP in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in 2014. Overall, it would be a four-cornered contest, though the main fight is likely to be confined between the Left Front and Trinamool. Neither of the parties is sure of winning a decisive majority. In the last civic poll in 2009, Congress and Trinamool had an electoral understanding, but this time there is no such alliance and votes may get split between the two parties. Congress has a strong base still in some wards and is confident of retaining them. In the bargain, if Congress manages to win even a few of the 47 wards, it may be in a strong bargaining position to form the SMC board. For, Congress will be more acceptable to both Trinamool and the LF as an alliance partner. The LF, which has projected former municipal affairs Ashok Bhattacharya as the mayoral candidate is hoping to gain from his clean image. 

Many CPM workers who had remained indifferent in the last few years have again started campaigning for candidates of the party. The LF had 18 seats in the outgoing board against 24 required for a majority. The LF leadership was careful to select candidates with a clean public image. Trinamool has the advantage of being the ruling party in the state and has gained in strength in Siliguri in recent years. But, it is hit by internal feuds and the process of choice of candidates, unlike the LF, was not smooth. Again unlike the LF, Trinamool has not been able to project anyone as the mayoral candidate. The performance of the outgoing board is sure to have an adverse impact on the chances of Trinamool, as well as Congress. Though developmental works undertaken by the North Bengal Development Department in Siliguri would be something Trinamool would be able to highlight in its campaign. 


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