Monday, 26 September 2016

KALIMPONG DISTRICT: Is it a ploy to undermine the Gorkhaland movement?

Last week, Mamata Banerjee undertook a three-day visit to northern Bengal. There, speaking at a function to mark the 5th anniversary of the establishment of Lepcha Development Board, she declared Kalimpong sub-division as the 21st district of Bengal.

Although the formal inception of Kalimpong as a district will take place only after the Calcutta High Court clears the move - and that could take some time - Mamata's announcement has fulfilled a long pending demand.

The demand for making Kalimpong a district was mainstreamed by Harka Bahadur Chettri, founder of the Jan Andolan Party, when he was the Gorkha Janmukhti Morcha's legislator from Kalimpong. Chettri left the GJM over differences with the party's leader Bimal Gurung and launched the JAP in January 2016.

The move didn't pay off as Chettri, despite his popularity in Kalimpong, lost the assembly election earlier this year. His defeat was quickly blamed on the JAP siding with the Trinamool Congress, which is perceived by the people in these parts as being against their interests. Mamata had even named Chettri as the TMC candidate from Kalimpong in the last election, only for the JAP leader, fearing a backlash, to contest on his own party's symbol.

The bonhomie between them appears too have cooled since. Indeed, while declaring districthood for Kalimpong, Mamata insisted that "the decision was not due to the efforts of a single person but because of her own efforts to help bring development in the hills". It was understood as a snub to Chettri though he himself didn't seem to think so.

Speaking to Catch, he said, "Technically she is right that it is entirely because of her. Without her consent, this would never have happened. Yes, I have been tirelessly working for the creation of a separate district of Kalimpong but I do not want to take credit for it. If I do, it might hinder the smooth process for the formation of the district."

He added, "Even though the chief minister has made the announcement, we don't know how long it will take for the high court to give its order. It could be that the formal announcement coincides with municipality elections next year."

While Chettri may play humble, the GJM has no qualms in seeking credit. The party's Darjeeling legislator, Amar Singh Rai, told Catch, "Everybody knows it was the GJM which launched the demand for a Kalimpong district before anyone else. It was the GJM and its MLAs that have been pressuring the government on this issue for years now. The chief minister may claim it's because of her, but then why the delay of so many years? Everybody knows the truth."

By Priyata Brajabasi
Via: Catch News, originally posted at: http://bit.ly/2d4VWws