Siliguri Mayor Asok Bhattacharya (standing) with Congress state working president Sankar Malakar (2nd left), and CPI-M Darjeeling district district secretary Jibesh Sarkar (centre) at the dharna in Kolkata on Friday.
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Kolkata: Even as the state Left Front leadership are still squabbling over Lok Sabha polls alliance with the Congress, Siliguri Mayor and CPI-M MLA Asok Bhattacharya today demonstrated a show of unity with the centrist political party right here in Kolkata.

During the day, Bhattacharya and 21 of his Left councillor colleagues from Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) held a sit-in demonstration at Esplanade Metro Channel in the city.

This was to highlight the alleged “economic blockade” that the Trinamool-ruled state government has inflicted on SMC by not allotting funds.

The dharna was a pre-announced programme. But what came as a political statement by the CPI-M MLA and Mayor is the participation of Sankar Malakar, the Congress MLA from Matigara-Naxalbari Assembly segment near Siliguri.

Significantly, Malakar also happens to be working president of Bengal Congress and president of the party’s Darjeeling district unit.

The Congress MLA not only participated in the dharna but also delivered a speech supporting the cause.

“Despite the non-cooperation and lack of allotment of funds by the state government, Asok-babu has been running SMC successfully amidst all constraints. He deserves huge credit and thanks for this,” Malakar said.

Sources informed that Bhattacharya took informally took permission from CPI-M state leadership before inviting the Congress leader to the dharna. In a way, this is to test the reaction of other constituents of the Left Front and also of the public.

“In any case, despite all sorts of tricks by Trinamool, Asok has been able to keep the Left in power at SMC with the outside support of Congress councillors. The new development today is that a senior Congress leader has publicly participated in our dharna here in the state capital,” a senior CPI-M leader said not willing to be named.

The Siliguri Mayor told reporters covering the dharna that despite multiple communique and even personal meetings with the municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the state government is depriving SMC of funds.

“Trinamool government has not allotted funds for drinking water projects, drainage, slum development, roads, etc. for the last four years. People of Siliguri are being deprived of their legitimate rights due to this virtual economic blockade against SMC by the state government,” Bhattacharya said.

He said that the SMC Left councillors to organise the dharna in Kolkata so to tell the people of Bengal of the undemocratic treatment by the Trinamool government.

“Mamata Banerjee keeps on talking about non-cooperation by the Centre. But when it comes to SMC, her government is depriving us of legitimate funds which have made it extremely difficult for us to run the civic body,” the Mayor added.

Much to the credit of Bhattacharya, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in a rally at Falakata on 8 February spoken about Trinamool government’s depriving SMC of its dues.