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Bengal: Left Front Releases Manifesto for Civic Polls in Siliguri, Its Last Bastion

Out of the four places going to polls for municipal corporations, Siliguri is of particular interest because it is the only municipal corporation administered by the Left Front.

Kolkata: With a slogan titled "Siliguri is fighting and Left is returning", the Left Front has released its manifesto for the upcoming civic polls in West Bengal's Siliguri. Presenting the manifesto, which is available in both e-version and printable format, outgoing Siliguri Mayor Ashok Bhattacharya said that Siliguri's path to development has been through the Left route. In contrast, the Trinamool Congress-led state government has always tried to subvert the Left's proclivity for development, he said, taking a dig at the ruling party.

Within a heightened third wave of Covid-19, West Bengal is holding civic polls at four municipal corporation areas on January 22, including in Siliguri, Chandannagore, Asansol, and Bidhannagare Municipal corporation areas. Out of these, Siliguri is of added importance because it is the only municipal corporation administered by the Left Front.

Bhattacharya also said that by resisting "vote loot", the Left can have the last laugh in Siliguri, and the democratic legacy of the place can be maintained. "We want dignity and self-respect for the people of Siliguri, and only the Left can present the people of Siliguri with a corruption less efficient and trustworthy civic board," he said.

In the manifesto, the Left has emphasised the structural improvement of the civic areas and setting up a civic board focused on the environment, women's safety and empowerment, and increased educational and employment opportunities. 

The manifesto has been divided into bullet points, with each section denoting the present bottlenecks faced by the citizens and the remedial measures to be taken by the Left run board if voted to power again in the civic polls.

It can be recalled that Siliguri, located on the foothills of the Himalayas, is the largest city in North Bengal and an interstate trading hub. The city and its adjoining areas are also known for their sizeable Left presence, with the coalition retaining the assembly seat until 2021, when MLA Shankar Ghosh, who defected from the Left to the BJP, defeated current Siliguri Mayor Ashok Bhattacharya by a huge margin. 

However, during the assembly elections, the call to bifurcate North Bengal from west Bengal rose, and a sizeable population was swayed by it. After the elections, the BJP was perturbed by the defection of its ranks. Moreover, 12 Left councillors also defected to the TMC and are fighting the polls on TMC tickets this time.

Siliguri is also noted for its democratic heritage for free and fair polls as the city's political intelligentsia backs the democratic tradition of voting. In the last election and the upcoming one, the prime objective of the Left Front is to stop the alleged looting of votes by the ruling TMC's workers, according to Rita Buxi, a Left activist. 

According to Pashang Lama, a state government employee, Siliguri in this election will also favour the party that will guarantee a corruption-free administration and peace and stability in this trading hub of North Bengal. "At least one member of each family in Siliguri is a shop owner or a trader, and peace and stability are of utmost importance to them," he elaborated.

The BJP and TMC have also brought out their manifestos. While the TMC has promised big projects in the city with the state government's help, the BJP has promised "Ram Rajya"-like administration of the municipal board. However, the BJP, weakened by defections, is posing a weakened face in the election and going by the political graffiti around the city for polls, the Left Front and TMC appear to be the prime contenders.

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