Hills remain tough terrain for Trinamool

Hills remain tough terrain for Trinamool

Hills remain tough terrain for Trinamool

Mamata Banerjee’s claim of a “smiling Darjeeling” might have got her significant mileage across West Bengal but does not seem to have yielded much ground for her in the Raj-era hill station.

Even though she visited the Hills more number of times than any other place in the state, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s grip continues to remain tight.

Government records reveal that Mamata visited Darjeeling and surrounding areas for more than 20 times in the course of her five-year tenure since 2011. Even though the Morcha made its foray into state politics as an ally of Mamata in 2011, they soon held the hands of the BJP, which stood by its long-standing demand of a separate Gorkhaland state, a demand Mamata did not entertain.

With the change in scenario, Mamata’s visits to the Hills became more frequent as did the number of sops she announced, much of which has not yet been realised.

Even though ground realities suggest that the Morcha will continue to rule the roost in the Hills, Trinamool leaders are confident of gaining the foothold they have sought for years. The saving grace for Trinamool is likely to be dissident Morcha leader, Hadka Bahadur Chhetri, sitting MLA from Kalimpong and Mamata’s ally since December 2015.

Gautam Deb, Trinamool’s most prominent leader in North Bengal and the North Bengal Development minister in Mamata’s Cabinet, believes his party will break though Morcha’s stronghold.

“We have a very good chance in the Hills because of the development work our government has undertaken in the last five years. The Left did nothing for Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong whereas Mamata Banerjee gave away around Rs 1,100 crore in this short time,” he said. He pointed out that even though Trinamool candidate Bhaichung Bhutia lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Darjeeling, he still netted more than 1 lakh votes in the Hills. “No other mainstream party managed this since the Gorkhaland agitation started in 1986,” Deb said. Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, however, refuted Deb’s fund allotment figure and said that only around Rs 600 crore was allotted, much of which is yet to be released. “The Trinamool is making a false claim, only around Rs 238 crore was released. In fact we’re planning to file a case against Mamata Banerjee’s government for breach of trust,” he said. After Mamata came to power, Hills people initially believed things would undergo a change but “Mamata Banerjee didn’t give us anything”, said Gurung, a friend-turned-foe.

Making things worse for Mamata, the Left has also come forward to support a recent statement from Morcha, calling for Mamata’s ouster from government, even though the Gorkha outfit is a BJP ally since 2009.

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