Siliguri, Aug. 9: Gautam Deb, the minister for north Bengal development, has reportedly said the Trinamul Congress may step out of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation if the Congress-led board does not provide quality civic services before the Pujas.
At a four-hour meeting last evening where Trinamul and Congress councillors were present, Deb complained about the lack of co-ordination between the two parties, the Congress's tendency to blame everything on the dues left by the former Left civic board and the Congress members' tendency to keep the minister out of the loop of the SMC's functioning.
Trinamul councillors, who were present at a meeting late last night, said Deb vented his frustration at the tardy work of the board and said the Trinamul would not shoulder the blame of failing to extend proper civic services because of the inefficiency of Congress councillors.
He mentioned the abysmal performance of mayor Gangotri Datta.
"He was disappointed. The minister wanted to drive home the point that it would be tough for both the political parties and their representatives to convince people that they cannot deliver services because of the lack of funds and huge liabilities left by the erstwhile Left Front board," a Trinamul leader said.
"He has made it clear that in case the performance of the board does not improve, Trinamul will walk out of the board and support from outside."
According to party insiders, the minister has expressed concern over civic issues like bad roads and waste disposal problems.
"In the course of the meeting, the minister expressed his displeasure that unlike other civic bodies of north Bengal, the SMC authorities never ask for his suggestions. He gave specific orders for Durga Puja for road repairs, collection and disposal of garbage and regular supply of drinking water," a party source said.
"He insisted that the consistent nagging attitude of some board members over lack of funds should stop and there should be a proactive attitude to deal with issues."
The Congress councillors and mayor Datta have repeatedly complained that the Left had left dues of Rs 20 crore to be cleared.
The meeting continued for over four hours last evening, in course of which Deb mentioned that it was necessary to prepare a status report of the civic board.
"In the last three years, the board has failed to meet the aspirations of the people," a Trinamul councillor quoted him as saying.
"He (Deb) had sought a status report about the board's liabilities, performance and infrastructure five months ago but till date, it has not reached him."
Another important issue raised by the minister was the alleged anomalies in the building cell of the SMC.
"I have specific information that bribes are paid to get building plans endorsed at the civic body. The practice has to stop," Deb said at the meeting.
Later, while talking to newsmen, he mentioned that a software would be installed at the building cell to discourage such practices. "It has been decided that some software would be installed in the building cell," he said. "We have told SMC authorities to take necessary steps in this regard."
"The mayor and other representatives have been asked to expedite works at the civic body and maintain a steady coordination among councillors of both parties. We have information that there is lack of coordination among representatives of Trinamul and the Congress, which is complicating the situation. It is high time such coordination, exchange of information and a concerted approach happened," Deb said.
Shankar Malakar, the Darjeeling district Congress president and Matigara-Naxalbari MLA, who was present throughout the meeting, sounded reconciliatory today.
"When so many people from two different political platforms work together, there can be lack of co-ordination in some cases. We must bridge the gap," he said.
"The problems should be resolved through talks as the Congress is aware of its responsibilities towards Siliguri citizens. It's not that the mayor and others councillors prefer to sit idle. They are working despite several problems, one of them being the lack of funds and huge liabilities left by the earlier board," he added.