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Footfall boost to Lama hill meeting

Darjeeling, Dec. 1: The footfall at Mahendra P. Lama’s public meeting here today was touted as his rising acceptability in the hills as the educationist seemed to have attracted more crowd than what was usually seen for hill parties, other than the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

The first Darjeeling public rally of the Darjeeling Dooars United Development Foundation, a forum set up by Lama, had an attendance of 1,000-1,500, a police source said.

Lama, who had recently resigned as the pro vice-chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University, declared himself as a Independent from Darjeeling in the next parliamentary polls.

Bharati Tamang, the president of the ABGL, presided over today’s meeting at Chowk Bazar. “It is a good thing that Mahendra P. Lama has decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Darjeeling. We have to ensure that he wins by a huge margin,” she said.

Lama has sought support from all political parties. So far, only Morcha chief Bimal Gurung has cold-shouldered him.

Police sources said 1,000-1,500 people were at the meeting. Usually public meetings in Darjeeling draw around 200-400 people. In Morcha meetings, the number goes up to over 10,000.

Lama today said his policy would be “zero enemy”. “We will pursue a policy of zero enemy but work with all people of the hills. Let us also not talk about the past, as everyone is well aware of it, but let us only talk about our future,” he said.

Lama today said leaders who espoused the cause of Gorkhaland had not consistently raised the issue in Parliament. “The issue of a separate state comprising Darjeeling and the Dooars along with finding a permanent solution to the issue of national identity of Gorkhas will be something that I intent to work on,” said Lama. “Fulfilling the demand is more about raising the issue at the right time and the right place,” he added.

The other issues that he took up were bringing central projects to Darjeeling, establishing central university and Indian Institute of Technology, re-opening Jelep-la route in Kalimpong for India-China trade, including Darjeeling-Dooars region in the Northeast Council, implementing panchayat system in the hills and linking local development agencies with foreign ones. “We would also want a minimum wage act for the tea industry.”