Mamata addresses the meeting at Chowrasta in Darjeeling on Thursday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, July 17: Mamata Banerjee today tried to play down the perceived animosity between her and Bimal Gurung by wishing the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief on his 50th birthday and seeking the “trust” and “love” of hill residents, “not votes”.
“Apka bharosa chahiye, apka pyaar chahiye, vote nahi chahiye (I want your trust, your love, not votes),” Mamata said. Her last address at Chowrasta was on April 13, when she sought votes for Bhaichung Bhutia for the Lok Sabha election. That was a political campaign rally. Today’s was a government event where Mamata commissioned the much-awaited Balasun water project, among other things.
In the Lok Sabha election, Bhaichung lost to the BJP’s S.S. Ahluwalia, whom the Morcha supported. Ahluwalia won by nearly 2 lakh votes, a statistic some Trinamul leaders cited today to explain Mamata’s gesture of wanting to work for development.
“We had called everybody to this event today but I heard it is Bimalji’s birthday today and I wish him all the best. I have already sent a letter to him.”
No leader from the Morcha was present at the programme.
“There will be politics at times but politics should not come in the way of development,” Mamata said, adding that she had transferred almost 90 per cent of the departments to the GTA.
The Morcha’s major grouses against the government has been the non-transfer of all 57 departments to the GTA and perceived interference by the administration in the functioning of the hill body.
Mamata said she did not want to interfere in the working of the GTA, another complaint Gurung has made repeatedly. “The GTA will do its work and we will do work where we need to. If there is any problem, I will see to it,” she said.
“Mamatadi has realised that she cannot win over the hill people by criticising the Morcha — a clear indication was the margin of victory of the hill party in the Lok Sabha elections,” a Trinamul leader said.
“That is why she almost held out an olive branch to the Morcha, especially her promise of cooperating with the GTA in bringing development to the hills.”
Asked about Mamata’s speech, Gurung said: “The content of her speech today is a positive indication of development. Morcha MLAs, GTA Sabha members and the municipality chairman will attend a meeting she has called in Darjeeling tomorrow,” he said.
Gurung is unlikely to be present at the meeting.
Trinamul insiders said Mamata did not want to get into any confrontation with the Morcha since she knew development would play a crucial role in the future.
“Mamatadi has always harped on development of the hills, even when the ties with the Morcha were not cordial. She is carrying on with her agenda. At today’s meeting, she made it clear that the GTA should work properly,” said a Trinamul leader close to Mamata.