Trinamool leader and state minister of municipal affairs and urban development Firhad Hakim, CPM veteran, and Siliguri MLA Ashok Bhattacharya shared the dais at the event held to unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Kutcheri Road.

In recent years, this is the first time in Siliguri when a minister of the Mamata Banerjee government shared the stage with CPM leader.

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Firhad Hakim, who unveiled the 9-foot-high statue of Gandhi in presence of Ashok Bhattacharya, district Trinamool leaders, among others, slammed the BJP, without naming it. “Gandhiji’s last words were ‘He Ram’. These days, these people, with their divisive ideology, are inappropriately using the name of Ram and trying to defame his glory. We have to swear to thwart their attempts,” said the minister.

Bhattacharya, who also chairs the board of administrators at SMC, stressed the need to maintain secularism. “Thousands from different communities reside in and around Siliguri. At this time, it is a challenge for us to uphold secularism and ensure it is maintained across the country. We feel the installation of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue, who always advocated secularism, is absolutely relevant,” he said.

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Unusually, Bhattacharya praised Hakim for facilitating the statue’s installation.

Over the past five years, the CPM veteran has accused the TMC of being biased against the Left-run SMC. “Initially, there were problems in finding a suitable plot for this statue. I met the minister (Hakim) and requested him for a place. He took up the initiative immediately,” said the CPM MLA.