TT, Siliguri, April 15: Asok Bhattacharya, whose “Siliguri model” inspired the Left-Congress tie-up across the state, today ended his campaign in north Bengal’s most important town with a thumping show of alliance strength.
Trinamul seemed to have given Asok a walkover. His rival contestant, Trinamul’s Bhaichung Bhutia, was seen in small marches around the town.
When Trinamul leaders were asked about the lacklustre campaign around Bhaichung, they pointed to Mamata’s Siliguri march on March 14, which the ruling party marks as Nandigram Diwas.
A crowd of nearly 10,000 people had walked with Mamata, who had taken the same route Asok took today from Mallaguri More to Hashmi Chowk.
The alliance rally today gathered around 7,000 people bringing traffic to a standstill.
In front were the CPM’s Asok and Surjya Kanta Mishra and Jibesh Sarkar, the Congress’s Manas Bhuniya, Pradip Bhattacharya and Sankar Malakar and several other leaders. After walking for about a kilometre, the leaders embarked into an open-hooded SUV, waiving relentlessly at people.
“Asok Bhattacharya zindabad” and anti-Trinamul slogans rented the air.
“Today’s rally was unique as in recent times we have never seen such a spontaneous response from people. People from different economic backgrounds, caste and creed, joined the rally on their own. Siliguri has again proved today that it is against the misrule of the ruling party and that it has wholeheartedly endorsed the alliance,” Asok said later in the evening.
A political observer said: “After Mamata Banerjee’s walk on March 14, where the attendance of people was huge compared to any other rally organised by Trinamul in recent times, it was a challenge for the Left and the Congress to prove their support base here. They seem to have mulled over the issue and have, in the most matured strategic way, chosen the final day of campaign to reply to Trinamul’s show of strength.”
The political observer said: “it was important for the alliance to pass a clear message to residents that the Siliguri model has started rolling. In fact, a better and advanced version of the model (there is now an alliance of the Left and the Congress) is operational across the state. In the town that conceived the strategy, it is necessary to take voters into confidence. That is another reason for which the rally was held,” the observer said.
Even the state Congress leaders were enthusiastic. “Siliguri residents have shown the way. The message they had given, has spread across the state. It is in this way that Trinamul would be ousted from power,” Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya said.
This afternoon, Bhaichung held a news conference with other district Trinamul leaders. On being asked why Trinamul did not hold a similar rally, he said: “Instead of making any show, we preferred to hold rallies in each of the 33 wards (the area of Siliguri Assembly seat). At the wards, the Left could not manage to get even 100 people to hold a rally whereas, we got a spontaneous response today and hundreds walked in each of these rallies.”
Trinamul insiders, when asked why such a rally was not held, said they never had any such plans. “We never had any such plans as our party supremo has held a rally about a month ago,” one Trinamul leader said.
“It is evident that Trinamul is not too keen about Siliguri. Also, Bhaichung is campaigning here for about one-and-a-half months and is a familiar face now. In the absence of Mamata Banerjee, it is unlikely that he will pull crowds. These are some of the issues which might have stopped the party from hosting such a rally,” a party source said.