Darjeeling, Sept. 26: The need symbiotic, Mamata Banerjee today managed to keep the hill outfits — eager to be in her good books — happy without giving any concrete political assurance during the first day of her two-day stay in the region.
Known to be against the division of the state, Mamata deftly bypassed the only political demand of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha led by its president Bimal Gurung. “The government of India has proposed an alternative administrative set-up as an interim arrangement and will be operational till 2012. GJM (Morcha) requests you to take necessary initiative for the inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated areas of Terai and Dooars in the proposed interim authority,” the Morcha’s “political” memorandum read.
The inclusion of the areas in the plains in the interim authority for the hills is a contentious demand that has been starkly opposed by the Bengal government.
Mamata reportedly told the Morcha that “since the issue is being handled by the Union home ministry and the talks are progressing, it would be apt if the ministry took the decision”.
Gurung seemed happy with the overall dialogue, which took place in Hindi, and decided not to make an issue out of the lack of political commitment, a move understandable since the Morcha considers the “greater role” that Mamata will play in the state in the near future. “She is visiting Darjeeling as the railway minister and we, too, stressed issues regarding development of the region and the railways,” said Gurung after the meeting.
With the Morcha trying to separate from the CPM-ruled Bengal government and the BJP tie-up turning out to be not so successful, Mamata seems to be the only viable option for Gurung, who wants to be in her good books specially with the Assembly elections next year.
Last week, a Morcha leader, had said about Mamata: “Her political stature and the political situation in Bengal at this juncture cannot be ruled out. We are looking at the greater role she will play in the future”.
Taking a dig for touring the hills, CPM central committee member Mohammed Salim today said: “Mamata Banerjee is running to those who kill people. Days after visiting Lalgarh to align with Maoists, Mamata now rushes to Darjeeling to join hands with Janmukti Morcha. It is the Morcha that has brought in BJP into the hills and the Trinamul Congress chief is making overtures to the Morcha. She has no principles.” Later CPM state secretary Biman Bose slammed her in a statement. “If somebody aligns with those who are trying to divide Bengal is condemnable,” he said.
Asked if the Morcha was looking at forging an alliance with Trinamul in the coming days, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, spokesperson for the hill party said: “It is too early to comment. We will cross the bridge when we reach it. Even Mamata Banerjee told us that she could see for herself what the Left Front has done to Darjeeling.”
Many Morcha leaders were of the opinion that Mamata would be able to deliver “justice” to them. “This is a historic event,” said Col (retd) Ramesh Allay, president of the Morcha-affiliated ex-servicemen’s association. “We have high expectation as she is known to deliver justice to the oppressed.”
The ex-servicemen’s association wanted Mamata to pressure the state government into making public the findings of the one-man commission on lathi-charge on their rally at Darjeeling More,
Other hill parties, like the ABGL, too, thought that Mamata could deliver much to Darjeeling. “We told her that many of the demands like the one for Gorkhaland will not be solved unless the government speaks to a broad cross-section (of people). We also told her that solutions would not be achieved if only one party was engaged in talks,” said Dawa Sherpa, the working president of the ABGL. “We also demanded that the CBI take over the investigation of the Madan Tamang’s murder.”
Mamata reportedly told the ABGL delegation that she would raise the issue of inviting all the political parties during her meeting with the Prime Minister.
The Morcha also demanded that the railways should provide jobs to the next of kin of Gorkha martyrs and name a train after freedom fighters from the hills.