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Trinamool ties with Congress ‘strained’

Trinamool ties with Congress ‘strained’

Kolkata: The Left Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, backed a Congress party candidate claim for the mayor’s post in the Siliguri municipal corporation after the Congress and the Trinamool Congress—West Bengal’s main opposition parties—failed to reach an agreement on whom to appoint as the mayor.

The two opposition parties fought the civic body election together in this city in northern West Bengal and won 29 of the 47 seats. The Trinamool Congress won 14 seats and the Congress 15. An independent candidate supported the Trinamool Congress after winning a seat.

The Left Front, which has controlled the municipality for the past 20 years, won 17 seats.

Though it seemed after the results were announced on 15 September that the Congress-Trinamool Congress combine would oust the Left Front from administering Siliguri, the alliance broke and both the parties nominated candidates for the mayor’s post.

Supported by the Left parties, Congress’ candidate Gangotri Dutta received 32 votes and won the election for the mayor’s post on Thursday, forcing the Trinamool Congress to sit in the opposition.

“They are traitors," Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said in New Delhi on Thursday. “This again reveals the proximity between the Congress and the CPM."

The Congress was taken aback by Banerjee’s decision to field candidates against it in Arunachal Pradesh, where assembly elections are scheduled on 13 October, said some Congress leaders in New Delhi. So the party wanted to teach her a lesson, they said on condition of anonymity.

The decision to ally with the Left parties in Siliguri was aimed at reminding Banerjee that the Trinamool Congress would not be able to on its own win the 2011 assembly election in West Bengal, said a Congress leader in New Delhi, who also declined to be named.

Subrata Mukherjee, Congress’ working president in West Bengal, said his party wouldn’t do anything that could “harm" the alliance with the Trinamool Congress, “but this was a decision taken at the highest level of the Congress party."

Though the CPM’s decision to support Dutta as mayor of Siliguri seems to have driven a wedge through the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance, the Left parties rebutted allegations that they were trying to destabilize the coalition of opposition parties in the state.

The Congress and Trinamool Congress were not seeing eye to eye and this could have led to political instability in Siliguri, said Asok Bhattacharya, urban development minister and a CPM leader. “Because we did not want Siliguri to become another disturbed area, we agreed to give the Congress unconditional support from outside," he said.

The Trinamool Congress and the Congress allied for the April-May general election and together won 25 of the 42 parliamentary seats in West Bengal. An informal alliance between workers of the two parties was first noticed during local body elections in 2008.

The Trinamool Congress and the Congress are expected to jointly fight 82 civic body elections in 2010 and the state assembly election in 2011.

Liz Mathew in New Delhi contributed to this story.

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