The defection forces by-election in Kumargram and Mainaguri Assembly constituencies

Three years is a long time in politics and no one knows it better than the electorate in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district who will exercise their franchise not only for two Lok Sabha seats in the district but also two Assembly seats. Both the Lok Sabha seats and the Assembly seats will go for polls on April 17.

The voting in the two Assembly seats — Kumargram and Mainaguri has become necessary because two legislators of the Left Front who won the 2011 Assembly polls as candidates of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) joined the Trinamool Congress two months before the Lok Sabha election.

Dasarath Tirkey, a two-time Left Front MLA from Kumargram Assembly seat is the Trinamool Congress candidate from Alipurduar Lok Sabha seat in the district. Anant Deb Adhikari, another senior legislator who switched sides in contesting Assembly-by-polls from Mainagudi a constituency he represented as the Left Front MLA.

At political meetings of the Trinamool Congress senior party leaders introduce Mr. Tirkey and Mr. Adhikari as Left Front MLAs who joined Trinamool Congress to participate in the development process ushered in by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee .

At an election rally at Mainaguri on Wednesday Trinamool Congress secretary general and the State’s Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Partha Chatterjee introduced Mr. Adhikari as a candidate the people know and elected in 2011 Assembly polls.

“Just as you will vote for Bijoy Krishna Barman (Trinamool Lok sabha candidate) on the Jalpaiguri Lok Sabha seat vote for Anant babu on Mainaguri Assembly seat,”Mr. Chatterjee told the gathering.

Speaking at the venue Mr. Adhikari address was just a one liner. “Vote for grass and twin flowers (the Trinamool Congress symbol)”.

Defending his decision to join the Trinamool Congress Mr. Tirkey has been claiming at similar events that despite his willingness to work for tea-garden workers, he had failed to do it because the party he represented was not keen on it. “Many supporters of RSP are on my side and I hope that I emerge successfully in the elections,” he says.

Sources in Trinamool Congress admit that it is only because of the defections that the party has been able to make inroads in the State’s Jalpaiguri district where the Left Front was able to resists the onslaughts of the Trinamool Congress in the rural polls held last year.

Horse trading

The Left Front that failed to keep its legislators together is accusing the Trinamool Congress of luring their legislators by offering them money and “horse trading”- a phenomenon new in the politics of the State.

Both Mr. Tirkey and Mr. Adhikri shifted their allegiance to the Trinamool Congress on the eve of the Rajya Sabha polls on February 7 in the State giving an edge to a nominee of the ruling party.

Criticising the former Left Front legislators for siding with the Trinamool, senior leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI) Srikumar Mukherjee said, “It is difficult to criticise people who are being traded like horse. On political platform instead of people we are seeing horses”. “This is a very interesting electoral battle, horses are contesting against political leaders,” he quipped. Ashok Ghosh, leader of RSP exhorted the party supporters to ensure that these “dishonest legislators” do not get a single vote.

In the district where the majority of voters are from the reserved categories and livelihood of the electorate is centred around hundreds of tea gardens the debate has narrowed down to whether the people will accept those the legislators who have switched sides citing disillusionment to the ideology they represented in the past. If both Mr. Adhikari and Mr. Tirkey are able to win the polls it would bring a sea of change in the politics here where shifting loyalities will become acceptable to the electorate of West Bengal.

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