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TMC confident of defeating BJP in Jalpaiguri; parties mum on Kamtapur statehood issue

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Kolkata, Apr 2 (PTI) Unaddressed drinking water problems, unemployment and inadequate health infrastructure, apart from persistent demand for a Kamtapur state, are the key issues in the Jalpaiguri Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal.

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The constituency, which comprises six assembly seats in Jalpaiguri district and one in Cooch Behar, will go to polls on April 19.

While five seats — Mekliganj (Cooch Behar), Dhupguri, Maynaguri, Jalpaiguri and Rajganj — are reserved for Scheduled Castes since 2009 following the Delimitation Commission's directive, Mal is reserved for Scheduled Tribes and Dabgram-Phulbari falls under general category.

Jalpaiguri is mostly dominated by Koch Rajbongshis (around 30 per cent), tribals (above 10 per cent), Nepali speakers (around 4.5 per cent), Hindi-speaking people (nearly 3 per cent) and Limbu (1.9 per cent).

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The remaining population is divided between Muslims, Hindus and others.

Incumbent MP Jayanta Kumar Roy of the BJP, seeking re-election, highlighted his efforts towards constituency development despite challenges and lack of state cooperation.

A doctor by profession, Roy feels the need for a "super speciality hospital" in the district to cater to people who have to rush outside the state during medical emergencies.

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"I've exerted my utmost effort despite facing obstacles and a lack of cooperation from the Trinamool government. The health sector in our constituency holds immense potential for development. However, absence of a super-specialty hospital remains a pressing issue, compelling people to seek treatment in Mumbai or South India. Regrettably, the initiatives purportedly undertaken by the state government appear to be superficial," Roy said.

Highlighting the migration of local youths to other states in pursuit of jobs, the BJP MP accused the TMC government of neglecting the matter by failing to establish industrial units in the region.

"It's disheartening to witness that our youth are compelled to seek livelihoods elsewhere due to the lack of jobs. Despite the potential for industrial growth, the TMC government has not made any effort to address this issue," he lamented.

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Regarding the longstanding demand for a separate Kamtapur or Greater Cooch Behar state, the BJP leader acknowledged the grievances of the people of north Bengal.

"It's undeniable that the state government has overlooked the interests of north Bengal people. While the Centre is reviewing the demand for recognition of the Kamtapuri language, I refrain from commenting on the demand for a separate state," he said.

Referring to the problems in tea gardens, the outgoing BJP MP said, "The issues will be addressed." His opponent, TMC's Nirmal Chandra Roy, a first-time MLA from Dhupguri who won the by-poll a few months ago, blamed the BJP MP for failing to live up to the expectations of the people.

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"People are disgusted with the current MP. He did nothing for the development of the constituency. People have realised that only Mamata Banerjee can deliver," he said.

"I keep telling the people of tea gardens that the central government has done nothing for them and they should not repeat the mistake of voting for them again," the TMC nominee said, referring to the alleged withholding of the MGNREGA and government housing scheme funds by the Centre.

Expressing full confidence in his electoral prospects, the history professor affirmed his belief in securing victory.

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Additionally, he emphasised on his preparedness by identifying key areas requiring attention for the holistic development of the constituency.

"I do not see any challenge because it is a bigger area. I will work on the overall development of Jalpaiguri," he said, mentioning his special plans for the Rajbangshi community there.

In response to queries about the demand for a Kamtapur state, he underscored the unity in West Bengal, emphasising its status as a state where people from diverse communities, creeds, and beliefs coexist harmoniously.

Moreover, he dismissed the notion of partitioning West Bengal, highlighting that there is no question of creating another state.

Coincidentally, the Kamtapur People's Party, wielding significant influence among the Rajbanshis in north Bengal and certain areas of lower Assam, has started pressurising the Centre and the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Recently, it submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office and the Union home minister, urging for the creation of a separate state and the inclusion of the Rajbanshi language in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.

On whether CAA and NRC will have any impact on the elections, the TMC candidate said, "People here have been deprived of Constitutional rights for years. And now this CAA has created a panic. We are already the citizens of India and there is no need to prove our citizenship again." Debraj Barman, who is backed by the Left and the Congress, cited widespread disillusionment with both BJP and TMC, particularly concerning unemployment and migration issues.

"People are increasingly frustrated with both the BJP and the TMC due to their history of unfulfilled promises," Barman articulated.

"A significant number of educated youths remain unemployed, despite holding graduate degrees. In numerous villages, households are devoid of men as they have migrated to other states in pursuit of employment opportunities," he said.

Siliguri mayor Goutam Deb, a former MLA from Dabgram Fulbari who has been campaigning for TMC candidate, said that they have formulated "strategies to defeat the saffron party".

"We are sure of a win. People are frustrated with the false promises of the BJP. We can sense the change in the air. This time, TMC will win more seats in north Bengal, and Jalpaiguri will be one of them, where we will emerge victorious with a huge margin," Deb told PTI over the phone.

The electoral landscape also includes candidates from SUCI(C), BSP, and the Kamatapur People’s Party (United), reflecting diverse political participation.

Historically, the constituency witnessed dominance by Congress till 1971, followed by CPI(M) until 2009, when TMC emerged victorious. In 2019, the BJP secured the seat. PTI SCH MNB BDC

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