West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling on Friday said they have cleared “misunderstandings,” left behind the past and moved forward for development of both the states.
It may be mentioned here that misunderstandings cropped up between Sikkim and Bengal on the issue of Gorkhaland agitation in the Hills last year, especially after Mr Chamling wrote to home minister Rajnath Singh in support of a separate state of Gorkhaland.
After the agitation ended in September, the West Bengal government accused Sikkim of fomenting trouble in the Hills, while leader of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) and chairman of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Binoy Tamang warned Sikkim government against meddling in the Hill affairs.
Miss Banerjee and Mr Chamling on Friday held a meeting at Uttarkanya here on various issues and jointly addressed the Press later.
“We welcome chief minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling. We are friends from the beginning. We discussed development of Bengal and Sikkim and how we can work together and develop the two states in a better manner,” Miss Banerjee said.
“How two states can work together, I think that is the main issue we discussed. Sikkim will extend full cooperation for the development of Bengal, and we will also give full cooperation to Sikkim for their development,” the Bengal CM added.
Similarly, Mr Chamling said: “I don’t have anything more to mention because madam (CM) mentioned everything that we discussed.”
“We will work together for development of Sikkim, and also Darjeeling and West Bengal. Discussions focused on development issues and whatever misunderstanding that we had before is now past. Now we have to move together for a better future and better relations,” he said.
It may be noted here that as Mr Chamling hesitated to answer a volley of questions thrown at him by media persons, Miss Banerjee promptly answered some.
“Whatever misunderstanding cropped up on the issue of Darjeeling, Chamling-ji said it is over now. It has been very good. It is good for both Darjeeling and Sikkim,” Miss Banerjee said when a reporter asked Mr Chamling a Hill agitation-related question.
“The past is over now, and we have started discussions and new initiatives. They are not going to support them, but are willing to work together. Such question should not be asked at this moment because we will work together,” she said, adding, “They will support Bengal, not them, and Bengal will support Sikkim. Past is past, let us start anew from here.”
Commenting on the Supreme Court’s dismissal of absconding Morcha leader Bimal Gurung’s writ petition, Miss Banerjee said: “We welcome the court’s verdict. We want development and peace, and it will continue.”
Asked if Mr Gurung will be arrested now, she said: “I will not comment anything on this.”
An observer, meanwhile, said on Friday was a bad day for Bimal Gurung and a good one for Miss Banerjee. “The Supreme Court dismissed Gurung’s writ petition, and Chamling, who was Gurung’s supporter, extended support to Miss Banerjee.”
“The two states of Bengal and Sikkim are neighbours. People, tourists from our state, love Sikkim and prefer to go there. So we want there should be a better understanding between us,” Miss Banerjee said, adding, “Since Siliguri is a chicken’s neck and Sikkim is also important from the northeastern point of view, development may come if the two states work together.”
Asked about the progress of Sikkim’s first proposed rail line, the Sevoke-Rangpo rail project, and objection from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said: “I don’t know the details.
I asked Chamling-ji, and he was also not aware of the details. Despite the environment issues and pending clearances, we want the project to go ahead. The project is important and tourists will be happy with it. We have full cooperation (to the project).”
Interestingly, when asked to comment, Mr Chamling simply said: “I have no idea.”
On the recent row between the states over the transport agreement, Miss Banerjee said: “Vehicles from Sikkim will ply in our area and vice versa. Administrative officials of the two states will sort out the problems.”
She further said that a good tourist circuit might be readied, comprising two states. “I will ask Binoy, chairman of the GTA, to discuss the matter with Sikkim,” she said.