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‘Jai Gorkha’

The crisis is embedded in sub-regional jingoism, though one must concede that violence and deaths have been contained.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Through a deft bout of realpolitik, Mamata Banerjee skirted the emotive issue of a separate state at Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony of 44 elected members of the Gorkha Territorial Administration Sabha at Darjeeling’s bustling Chowrasta. Profoundly resonant was her slogan of “Jai Gorkha” that served as an epilogue to her presentation of development plans for the hills. Chiefly, the Chief Minister has conveyed the message that she is not interested in interfering with hill politics. The Trinamul Congress, which has fared impressively in the recent by-elections, is quite obviously trying to connect with the populace of the hills, an ethnic segment that is rather different from the people of the plains. Her presentation was riveted to development plans and was bereft of political rhetoric, of which there has been an excess in Darjeeling ever since the mid-1980s.

After complimenting the people of the hills for what she called the “most peaceful voting in the history of Darjeeling”, the Chief Minister sought “friendship and peace” from them as part of an elaborate reach-out attempt. “You need to promise,” she told the meeting, “that there will be no strike in the hills. If there is peace, the economy will get better.” Indeed, peace in the salubrious hills is the consummation that is devoutly to be wished for. There have been several rounds of violent statehood movements in the region from the high noon of the Jyoti Basu dispensation to the present day, so to speak. The crisis is embedded in sub-regional jingoism, though one must concede that violence and deaths have been contained. A sum of Rs 7,000 crore has already been provided to the GTA. “Believe me, I do not come here to interfere but only to seek what is good for the region,” the Chief Minister said.

The Governor, Mr Jagdeep Dhankar, is scheduled to administer the oath of office and secrecy to the GTA’s chief executive, Anit Thapa, at the Darjeeling Raj Bhavan on July 14. “I have had a long talk with Anit,” said the Chief Minister. “I have asked him to come to Kolkata within three or four days of the swearing-in and meet the chief secretary and other secretaries.” Implicit in the initiative is Miss Banerjee’s eagerness to take the GTA into confidence in the impending exercise towards a form of loose federalism. It bears recall that when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was at the helm of the previous GTA Sabha, the party had consistently alleged interference by the government (aka Writers’ Buildings and Nabanna) in the functioning of the entity that was choreographed for the hills. Well might Mr Thapa, a leading light of the GTA Sabha claim that “a new era of practical politics has dawned in the hills.” The new administration deserves good wishes as it embarks on its task of realising the full potential of the region.