|Workers check the toy train tracks near Dagapur on Tuesday, a week before the railway minister’s visit to north Bengal. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, Sept. 21: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is expecting a “positive outcome” at its meeting with Mamata Banerjee during her visit to the hills early next week, the optimism all the more because of the “greater role she is expected to play in the state” in the days to come.
If the meeting takes place, it will be the first between the Morcha and the Trinamul Congress chief in the three years since the hill party’s inception.
As far as the Morcha rivals go, the ABGL has already decided to meet the railway minister when she tours Darjeeling on September 26 and 27. The CPRM, which has the highest following in the hills after the Morcha, said it would meet her if it was invited.
Although the Morcha leadership will take a final decision on the meeting with the railway minister at a central committee session tomorrow, a senior party leader today said the “chances (of meeting her) are bright”.
To underscore the importance of the meeting, a Morcha leader said: “Her political stature and the political situation of Bengal at this juncture cannot be ruled out. We are looking at the greater role she will play in the state in future.”
Another Morcha leader said even as a Union minister, Mamata’s role cannot be ignored. “We can spell out our demands and grievances before her and highlight the plight of the hills people, seeking her intervention.”
Speculation has been high both in the hills and in the plains on the Morcha-Mamata meeting ever since she announced that she would visit Darjeeling with a “message of peace, democracy and unity”. The Trinamul chief said she wanted the hills to “continue to remain a part of Bengal” even while wanting to talk to the people there to sort out the problems.
Gautam Deb, the Darjeeling district Trinamul president, could not confirm if Mamata would meet the Morcha. “We can say that she is coming here with an open mind and with a mission to address the genuine problems of the hills people.”
If Union ministers and even the chief minister can hold one-to-one talks with the Morcha delegation for so many times, there is nothing wrong if the railway minister meets the Morcha, Deb added.
The ABGL said it would request the minister to take steps to restore peace and democracy in the hills. “We will point out the atrocities of the Morcha and bring her attention to the murder of our leader Madan Tamang, as nothing has been done yet by the CID to catch main culprit Nickole Tamang who has escaped from their custody,” said ABGL working president Dawa Sherpa.
Govind Chhetri, the organisational head of the CPRM, said: “We will not go on our own but if invited, we will definitely meet Mamata Banerjee. We want her to stay in the hills and understand the problems faced by the people, both from development as well as political point of view.”
DHR officials, however, are yet to receive any itinerary of the minister. “We are readying the toy train tracks, the stations, loco-shed and the headquarters. However, no itinerary has reached us so far,” an official said.
Trinamul sources said Mamata would arrive at New Jalpaiguri on September 26 and head for Darjeeling by road. Next day, she is expected to leave for Calcutta by train in the afternoon.