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Ashok Bhattacharya designated new mayor of Siliguri

Ashok Bhattacharya new mayor of Siliguri Municipal Corporation  board
Belying any possibility of upsets, the Left Front on Monday duly formed the Siliguri Municipal Corporation  board, winning the election for the posts of mayor and chairman by a margin of 24 votes to 16. CPM veteran and former West Bengal minister for municipal affairs Ashok Bhattacharya was elected as mayor of Siliguri , while Dilip Singh was elected chairman of SMC.

For Trinamool Congress, the decision to contest in the mayoral election proved to be an embarrassment as the ruling party in the state not only failed to turn the tables on the LF but also could not keep its flock entirely together. For, though Trinamool has 17 elected councillors, party candidate for the post of mayor Nantu Pal secured only 16 votes. One vote in the Trinamool camp was cancelled for technical reasons, giving rise to the possibility of intra-party feud.

With 23 elected councillors in the 47-member SMC board and with the written support of the lone independent, the formation of the SMC board by the LF had never been in serious doubt. But, the last-minute decision of Trinamool to contest in the mayoral election had given rise to the apprehension of cross-voting. As it turned out, on the day of voting on Monday, Congress with four councillors and BJP with two councillors abstained from voting, reducing the majority mark to win the mayoral election effectively 21. Bhattacharya romped home comfortably with all the 24 listed votes.

“The efforts of Trinamool to engage in horse-trading have failed,” CPM Darjeeling district secretary Jibesh Sarkar told a television channel. “Had Trinamool tried to overturn the popular verdict in favour of the Left Front, people of Siliguri would have come out on the road.” He refused to comment, however, on how one vote in the Trinamool camp was disqualified, saying “it is an internal matter of that party.” Sarkar felt the Siliguri result would be a “milestone” in the road to revival of CPM in the state.

Pradesh Congress Committee leader Pradip Bhattacharya as well as BJP leader Shamik Bhattacharya had almost identical comments to make about the mayoral election in SMC. They abstained from voting as they wanted to maintain equidistance from CPM and Trinamool. But they were critical of the attempt by Trinamool to form the board even if the party was far short of majority. “It is not a healthy trend if the ruling party does not respect the popular verdict,” Bhattacharya said. In any case, it was a healthy trend if there was an effective opposition in state politics.

Bhattacharya started his political career as the member of CPM-supported student union SFI in the 70s and has been in the forefront of Siliguri politics ever since. His first big achievement in politics came when he was elected as the SMC chairman after winning the corporation election in 1987. Bhattacharya remained as the SMC chairman till 1991 and on the same year he ran as the CPM candidate for the West Bengal assembly seat from Siliguri Constituency.  He won his first assembly election and continued to remain the Siliguri MLA in 1996, 2001 and 2006. The CPM veteran however faced his toughest election battle in 2011, when the Trinamool candidate Rudranath Bhattacharya defeated him for the Siliguri assembly seat.(EOIC)

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