Darjeeling, Oct. 16: The Trinamul Congress today said Mamata Banerjee would address a party meeting in Darjeeling on October 24.
This would be the first political event by Mamata in Darjeeling after becoming chief minister.
The plan for the meeting has come at a time the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is holding back a fresh statehood agitation in the hope that on October 23, a day before Mamata’s expected meeting in Darjeeling, the Centre will hold tripartite talks with the state government and the hill party.
N.B. Khawash, the general secretary of the Trinamul (hills), said: “She (Mamata) will be in the region from October 22 onwards. There are talks of her attending a meeting in Kurseong on October 23 but we are concentrating on the October 24 programme in Darjeeling. The meeting in Darjeeling will be a political one.”
Khawash said Trinamul was yet to finalise the venue for Mamata’s Darjeeling meeting.
Trinamul sources said Mamata would probably address a rally at Chowrastha, the place where at a January 29 government meeting the chief minister had said that Darjeeling “is a part of us” — an utterance that had angered hill residents.
The Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee, which had spearheaded the statehood agitation, suspended the strike on September 11 after over a month-long general shutdown.
On October 7, the foundation day of the Morcha, Gurung said if the state government wanted to talk to the Morcha leadership, it could hold talks with the party’s MLAs.
It was the Morcha’s first clear message that it was open for talks with the state. But there has been no hint from the state government on its willingness for talks.
Moreover, the Centre hasn’t sent any official letter to the hill party inviting it to a tripartite meeting in New Delhi, though the Morcha has said it would be held on October 23.
Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, had said on September 30: “I received a call from Suresh Kumar, joint secretary of the Union home ministry, who is looking after the Centre-state relations, today and conveyed to me that the tripartite meeting (of central and state governments and the Morcha) would be held in New Delhi on October 23.”
Soon after Giri’s announcement on September 30, the Mamata Banerjee government expressed anguish on the Centre’s decision to call the meeting without discussing the matter with the state.
Observers said since the state had cold-shouldered the Morcha, Mamata’s move to address the political meeting in Darjeeling was a challenge to the hill party.
Asked about the tripartite meeting, Giri today said: “We have not yet received any official letter regarding the tripartite talks. We are monitoring the developments closely.”
The observers believe the Centre is probably dragging its feet over calling the tripartite meeting after the state’s objections.
For the Morcha, much is at stake. The party and the Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee had decided to suspend the shutdown from September 11 to October 23 citing the tripartite meeting. The committee is scheduled to meet in Darjeeling on October 19 to decide on the next course of action.
Even though Gurung said he was hopeful that the tripartite talks would be successful, the observers think given the state government’s opposition to the meeting and Trinamul’s attempt to take on the Morcha, the talks are unlikely to bear fruit.