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Ailing Buddhadeb hits campaign trail, leads huge road show

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Buddhadeb hits campaign

Kolkata, April 19 : With the red flag fluttering alongside the Congress tricolour, an ailing former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday hit the campaign trail leading a huge road show in support of CPI-M candidates through the city’s southern outskirts.

Attired in his trademark kurta and dhoti, Bhattacharjee rode an open jeep flanked by party candidates from Tollygunge, Jadavpur and Kasba constituencies, as thousands of Left Front and Congress workers and supporters enthusiastically joined in.

They sang, shouted slogans parodying the Trinamool Congress and exuding confidence of the Left and democratic forces forming the next government.

Bhattacharjee, a patient of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, had kept away from the heat and dust of the campaign so far following his doctors’ advice not to undertake long travels, despite requests from all party district units to lead the election campaign.

However, party sources said he was spending long hours at the party headquarters in Alimuddin Street, supervising the nitty gritties of the campaign, coining the slogans, and playing a major role in deciding venues of election meetings and the state level speakers.

Now an invitee to the Communist Party of India-Marxist’s policy-making body politburo, Bhattacharjee is also regarded as one of the architects of the Left Front-Congress tie-up, and was largely instrumental from behind the wings in ensuring the central committee nod for the poll understanding between the two long-time foes.

But with the poll caravan now moving on to the doorsteps of the city, Bhattacharjee agreed to join the public campaign.

He seemed more aged, with all grey hair, but seemed spurred on by the huge turnout, as he chatted with the party’s young candidate from Kasba, Shataroop Ghosh, and Sujon Chakraborty, a state secretariat member and contestant from Jadavpur.

Another young nominee, Students’ Federation of India leader Madhuja Sen Roy, in the fray from Tollygunge, seemed somewhat awed by Bhattacharjee’s presence.

The rally, that started off from the base of the Dhakuria Bridge at 5.15 p.m. with several thousand participants, swelled in size as Left supporters joined in large numbers on the way.

At various points, even common people were seen walking a few steps with the rallyists.

People peered through windows, crowded balconies of multi-storeyed apartments and other houses, with the large posse of mediapersons adding to the cacophony in their frantic bid to capture every footage and still frame of the 72-year-old leader.

With people also lining both sides of the route and even jostling for a glimpse of Bhattacharjee, who has restricted his public appearances and allowed a new generation of leaders to hog the limelight since losing the polls from Jadavpur in 2011, the former chief minister repeatedly waved to the large crowd that gathered on both sides of the road, and acknowledged their greetings and salutations.

There were continuous chants of “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Comrade Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lal salaam”, as Marxist cadres in red caps tried to keep a semblance of discipline.

The road show passed the famed Jadavpur University, and many students joined in, clapping in rhythm and raising catchy slogans.

“Ghooshkhorder sarkar, aar nei darkar” (We don’t need governments that take bribes) “Thanda thanda cool cool, jele jabe Trinamool” (Jail for Trinamool leaders), they said.

The distance of about 8 km was covered in about two-and-half hours, with the first column of the ‘red army’ reaching Garia crossing.

Bhattacharjee’s jeep, in the middle of the convoy, reached a few minutes later. The veteran leader looked tired, but surcharged by the adulation of the crowd.

There were persistent demands for him to address the crowd. Bhattacharjee obliged, albeit briefly.

“I thank everybody, wish you all the best. It was a huge rally. We will hold bigger rallies in the coming days. We have bigger battles ahead,” he said, to thunderous applause.

“Inquilab”, said the leader in conclusion. “Zindabad”, the crowd roared back.

Bhattacharjee succeeded Jyoti Basu as chief minister in November 2000, and ruled till May 2011, when the Left Front was voted out and the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool formed the new government in alliance with the Congress.

Election

Congress forms 5-party Mahagathbandhan to take on BJP in Assam

AIUDF General Secretary Aminul Islam said the Mahagathbandhan is good for Assam as it would fulfil the expectations of the people of the state and throw the BJP out of power.

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BJP and Congress Flag Poster

Guwahati, Jan 20: The opposition Congress on Tuesday announced a five-party ‘Mahagathbandhan’ to take on the ruling BJP-led coalition in Assam in the upcoming Assembly elections expected to be held in April-May.

Announcing the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), Assam Congress President Ripun Bora said that his party would contest the elections in alliance with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the three Left parties – Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) – and the Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM).

He said that regional parties are welcome to join the Mahagathbandhan to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party from power in the state.

“The Congress is always keen to oust all communal forces for the best interest of the country. People are ready to vote out the BJP as its misgovernance caused a lot of distress to the people, who have become fed up with the BJP,” he said.

AIUDF General Secretary Aminul Islam said the Mahagathbandhan is good for Assam as it would fulfil the expectations of the people of the state and throw the BJP out of power.

AGM President Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, also a Rajya Sabha member, termed the formation of the grand alliance as a historic moment. He sounded optimistic that the grand alliance would defeat the BJP in the forthcoming elections.

Besides the AIUDF, a Muslim-dominated party in Assam, and the Left parties, state Congress leaders had held several meetings in the past few months with the ‘like minded parties’.

AIUDF President and Lok Sabha member Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has been stating that the two parties (Congress and AIUDF) have decided to contest the Assembly polls together since their tie-up for the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls held last month.

Recently, interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi had appointed three central leaders — Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh Chief Minister), Mukul Wasnik (AICC General Secretary) and Shakeel Ahmed Khan (Bihar MLA) — to oversee the election campaign in Assam in close coordination with the AICC general secretaries and the party in-charge for the state.

Baghel and other central leaders held meetings with the state party leaders in Guwahati before Assam Congress chief announced the Mahagathbandhan.

The Congress had suffered a setback in the recent elections to the BTC and the Tiwa Autonomous Council. Two of its MLAs – Ajanta Neog and Rajdeep Goala – had joined the BJP last month, delivering another blow to the party.

In the 2016 Assam assembly elections, the Congress had contested on its own without an electoral alliance with any party, securing 24 seats.

After the last Assembly polls, the BJP formed the government in Assam for the first time after winning 60 seats following the formation of an alliance with the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which won 14 and 12 seats, respectively. The ruling alliance also has the support of an Independent MLA.

The 126-member Assam Assembly is likely to go to the polls in April-May along with West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

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Sonia forms 10-member election panel for Kerala chaired by Chandy

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Sonia Gandhi in Cong meeting

New Delhi, Jan 20: Eyeing the assembly polls in Kerala, the Congress on Tuesday announced a 10-member Election Management and Strategy Committee under the leadership of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as its chairperson along with senior party members like Shashi Tharoor and K. C. Venugopal.

Venugopal, who is the party’s General Secretary (Organisations) in a statement said that party chief Sonia Gandhi has approved the appointment of Election Management and Strategy Committee of Kerala Congress for the upcoming assembly elections with immediate effect.

He further said that the Committee shall meet frequently to discuss matters related to electioneering, co-ordination and formulation of election strategies.

Besides Chandy, Tharoor and Venugopal, the party has also named Mullapallay Ramachandran, Ramesh Chennithala, Tariq Anwar, K. Muraleedharan, V.M. Sudheeran, K. Sudhakaran and Kodikkunnil Suresh as the panel members.

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Election

Bengal: Left, Congress leaders hold talks; to finalise candidates by Jan end

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Congress

Kolkata, Jan 18: Top leaders of the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the Congress conducted a meeting here on Sunday to discuss the seat-sharing and other election-related strategies, leaders of both the parties said, adding that their candidates would be finalised by the end of this month.

However, both the Congress and Left leaders said that they would hold more such meetings this month to finalise the candidates’ list for the upcoming Assembly elections, expected to be held in April-May.

Both the party leaders would meet again on January 25 and 28 to settle the seat-sharing issue and other poll-related preparedness.

In 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls, the two parties had forged an alliance and won 76 seats in the 294-member Assembly.

Post meeting, Left Front Chairman and CPI-M politburo member Biman Bose said that their discussion with the Congress was cordial and fruitful.

“To defeat the communal force BJP and the fascist TMC (Trinamool Congress), the Congress-Left parties’ alliance is must. The alliance would definitely thrash the binary rule in Bengal,” the veteran Left leader told the media.

Bose said that leaders and workers of Left parties and Congress should fight against the BJP and the TMC with shoulder to shoulder.

Party sources said that the Congress wanted to contest in 130 seats but the Left leaders did not concede the demand.

Bengal Congress chief and the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Chowdhury said that the seat sharing with the Left parties would not be completed in a single meeting, however, the seat sharing process would be concluded within this month.

CPI-M state secretary Suryakanta Mishra, Congress leaders Abdul Mannan and Pradip Bhattacharjee were present at the meeting.The Left and Congress parties are likely to hold a mega joint rally in Kolkata soon to kick start their election campaign.

The all important elections to the 294-member West Bengal assembly are likely to be held in April-May along with Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.In the 2016 West Bengal polls,

Trinamool had retained its majority and won 211 seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party won three seats.

However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Left and Congress had fought separately with the Congress won two seats, the Left Front dominated by the CPI-M, which ruled Bengal for 34 years (1977-2011), drew a blank.

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