Stage set for West Bengal municipal battle royale

The ruling Trinamool Congress and its arch rival Left Front are once again pitted against each other in next Saturday's election to two municipalities, which is deemed as the last great fight before next year's Assembly Election.

Kolkata: The ruling Trinamool Congress and its arch rival Left Front are once again pitted against each other in next Saturday's election to two municipalities, which is deemed as the last great fight before next year's Assembly Election.

The TMC's electoral invincibility will be challenged by an apparently resurgent Left Front in the crucial election, which poll pundits have dubbed as a dress rehearsal for the big fight next year.

Amid allegations of violence, the campaign for the election to the Asansol Municipal Corporation (106 wards) and Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation (41) is due to end this afternoon marked by rancour.

The results will be announced on October 16.

The Asansol Municipal Corporation was formed by merging Raniganj, Jamuria and Kulti municipalities while the Bidhannagar corporation was constituted by merging Bidhannagar and Rajarhat-Gopalpur municipalities.

The TMC's campaign in the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation (BMC) is led by state Food Supplies Minister and party's North 24-Parganas district president Jyotipriyo Mullick.

The TMC campaign was hobbled by frequent faction fights, requiring party supremo Mamata Banerjee to intervene. She conducted a meeting with various TMC groups led by MLA Sujit Bose, MLA Sabyasachi Dutta, and Tapas Chatterjee, a CPI(M) leader who had recently switched over to the party.

Asked to react on the alleged infighting, Mullick said, "This is nothing but created by media. TMC is a united family and we will win the polls unitedly. The people will vote for the developmental work ushered by Mamata Banerjee."

The TMC had engaged party MP and nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Abhishek for campaigning in the polls.

He was assisted by state education minister and TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee and TMC party president Subrata Bakshi.

The opposition parties on the other hand alleged that the TMC was using a reign of terror to terrorise voters ahead of the polls."The TMC is trying to terrorise the masses ahead of the

municipal polls. We urge the State Election Commission to make necessary arrangements so that people can vote freely and fairly. We are confident that people are with the Left Front, if allowed to vote freely," state Left Front Chairman and CPI(M) politburo member Biman Bose said.

The CPI(M) led Left Front had engaged party state secretary and CPI(M) politburo member Surya Kanta Mishra to campaign for the Bidhananagar polls.

The BJP, which on other hand had engaged its state president Rahul Sinha to campaign in Bidhannagar and MOS Urban Development Babul Supriyo has extensively campaigned in Asansol area, from where he was elected MP last year.

"We have seen how the SEC had conducted the last municipal polls. We still urge the SEC to ensure that the polls are free and fair and not work under the pressure from the state government," Sinha said.

BJP, which had high hopes in Bidhannagar after its showing in last year's Lok Sabha polls, seems to have lost steam due to an apparent lack of leadership and infighting. Allegations by political opponents of an understanding with the ruling TMC seem to have begun to take a toll on the outfit in the key eastern state.

The Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad in north Bengal, which consists of areas of the Terai region, will also go to polls on October 3. The polls there will be a five cornered contest between CPI(M), TMC, BJP, Congress and GJM in some wards.