CPI(M) leader Asok Bhattacharya appointed administrator of Siliguri civic body

He, however, indicates he may decline the post as TMC councillors are members of the board.

The West Bengal government on May 15 appointed Communist Party of India (Maxist) leader and Mayor of Siliguri Muncipal Corporation (SMC) Asok Bhattacharya as administrator of the civic body, a move that is set to have major ramifications in the State’s politics.

The term of the elected board at SMC, the biggest civic body of Bengal after the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), is likely to end on May 17. Elections to several civic bodies of the State, including the SMC, have been postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The SMC is the only civic body in the State to be administered by the Opposition and the move to appoint Mr. Bhattacharya, who administered the civic body as its Mayor, comes as a surprise in political circles.

The 12-member board of administrators has seven members from the Left parties, including chairman Asok Bhattacharya, and five from the Trinamool Congress.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Bhattacharya expressed reservations over members of the Trinamool Congress being included in the Board of Administrators (BoA) for the civic body.

“In such a situation, TMC councillors have been included as members of the board. I will have to decline the post,” the CPI(M) leader, who served as a minister for North Bengal Development in the Left Front government, said.

Key face

Mr. Bhattacharya, a veteran CPI(M) leader, is a key face of the party in north Bengal and served in the Left Front government’s Cabinet.

In the first week of May, the West Bengal government appointed a BoA to supervise the functioning of the KMC, with the five-year term of its current elected members ending on May 7. On expected lines KMC’s Mayor Firhad Hakim was made chairman of the board, a move that was criticised by the Opposition, including the Left parties.

Referring to the appointment of BoA in Kolkata, Mr. Bhattacharya asked why leaders from Opposition parties were not considered for the KMC. “Is Siliguri out of West Bengal that there will be separate rules for it?” he asked.

The move by the State government has left the ball in the court of the Left parties whether they will accept the olive branch extended by the Trinamool Congress government.

What makes matters more interesting is that the CPI(M) leader was instrumental in keeping the SMC out of reach of the Trinamool Congress by allying with the Congress. The alliance between the Left and the Congress at the civic body also served as the basis of a larger political understanding between the Congress and the Left parties across the State in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha polls.

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