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Asok Bhattacharya faces his disciple in electoral battle

By Staff
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Siliguri, May 6 (UNI) After making a hat trick to the West Bengal assembly, veteran CPI(M) leader and West Bengal Urban Development and Municipal Minister Asok Bhattacharya in his fourth attempt faces his former disciple-turned-political rival Nantu Paul of Congress on his home turf Siliguri in a multi-cornered contest on May 8.

Famous for its strategic location, Siliguri seat has attracted huge attention this time because of new political equation among the 2,70,282 multi-lingual voters.

Of the total voters, there are about 1,27,447 women electors. The electorate consists of multi-lingual people spread over the hills and the plains. The electorate of the constituency comprise Bengalis, Nepalese, Santhalis, Munda, Marwaris, hindi speaking people and others, resembling a cosmopolitan town.

Paul, who was the CPI(M) councillor till 2005, sprang a surprise in the political circle with his sudden resignation from the party and joining the Trinamool Congress. He, however, ultimately shifted his allegience to the Congress and, in the same year, was reelected to the Siliguri Municipal Corporation when CPI(M)-led Left Front swept the election.

His re-election made many communist leaders believe that personal charisma can even upset organisational strategy in the electoral battle.

This time, Paul has turned his gun towards his former political guru in the assembly election which evoked huge curiosity among the voters for the last phase of election in Bengal.

Bhattacharya, a former chairman of Siliguri Municipality, first won the assembly election in 1991 and then in two successive polls.

He is also CPI(M) Darjeeling district committee member and Left Front convenor. His organising capacity compelled the party higher ups to take him in the state committee in 1999.

Bhattacharya had a smooth sailing in the last elections defeating his nearest Congress rival Prasanta Nandy by a margin of 23,000 votes.

Siliguri, also known as ''gateway of the northeast'', is growing fast to cater to the demands of entire northeast, parts of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Moaist movement and subsequent restoration of democratic movement in Nepal has indirectly made Siliguri more important for its location as many Indian businessmen find the place a safe shelter. The town made some extra business in real estate which saw mushrooming of high rise buildings and add new area in the municipality juridiction. These developments have given the ruling party an extra edge to seek votes.

Moreover, division of opposition votes mainly between the Congress and Trinamool Congress would further help the sitting candidate in course of new equation, political pundits opine.

Although Trinamool Congress has fielded Pratul Chakraborty as party candidate, the fight is expected to be restricted between the CPI(M) and the Congress. There are six other independent candidates in the fray.

UNI XC PC PK PM1601

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