The Telegraph
Monday , May 13 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Morcha to keep CM indoors
Once bitten, hill party wary of public show

Darjeeling, May 12: The GTA Sabha has decided against holding any public event during the chief minister’s two-day Darjeeling trip starting May 14 to avoid a repeat of the Chowrastha episode when her utterances sparked protests in the audience, sources said.

Sources in the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which controls the GTA Sabha, said the party had initially thought of organising a public event to welcome the chief minister.

“But many within the party were not comfortable with the idea of holding a public meeting at Chowrastha as they felt that the hill people and our leaders would not accept any anti-statehood comment from her. This will definitely strain relations between the Morcha and Mamata that have just been redeemed,” a Morcha source told The Telegraph.

On January 29, at the same Chowrastha, Mamata had said “Darjeeling is a part of us”, a comment that triggered protests from the audience. Morcha activists raised “we want Gorkhaland” slogans and waved posters that read “Gorkhaland is the way to all-round progress in the hills, Terai and Dooars”. Following this incident, the relations between the Morcha and Mamata nose-dived. Ruffled feathers were smoothed after a Morcha delegation led by general secretary Roshan Giri met the chief minister on April 23 when she was admitted to a Calcutta health facility. This will be Mamata’s first visit to Darjeeling after the January 29 fiasco.

Giri said the GTA would organise a programme at Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhavan during Mamata’s visit. “The chief minister will inaugurate an auditorium at the Gorkha Ranga Mancha Bhavan on May 14. There will be no public event at Chowrastha,” said Giri, who is also a GTA executive Sabha member.

Unlike Chowrastha, which is the main hub in the town, the general public cannot walk into the Ranga Mancha Bhavan which now houses the GTA Sabha. “An indoor event will ensure that only those people who are invited by the Morcha leadership will be present,” said an observer.

That the Morcha had second thoughts on holding the public programme for Mamata could best be gauged from Kurseong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri’s statement. The MLA said he had told the chief minister while inviting her to the hills last week that the GTA would organise an event in Darjeeling, most probably at Chowrastha.

“I did not talk of a public meeting but the impression I had was that if the GTA organises an event, it would probably be at Chowrastha. I merely told the chief minister that an event would be organised in Darjeeling and most probably at Chowrastha,” Chhetri said.

Even though the chief minister’s itinerary has not yet reached the district administration or the Morcha, party leaders said she was expected to attend only two inaugurations.

“Even though we have not yet received her official itinerary, our understanding is that she will inaugurate a fair price medical shop at the Darjeeling district hospital and the auditorium at Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhavan,” said Jyoti Kumar Rai, an assistant secretary of the Morcha and a GTA executive Sabha member.

Despite the Morcha’s aversion to hosting a public event for Mamata, the party is making arrangements to ensure a warm welcome for her. “Since the official itinerary has not yet reached us, we haven’t yet completed our arrangements. Nevertheless, we will be setting up four welcome gates at Siliguri, Kurseong, Sonada and Darjeeling (along the Hill Cart Road) to greet the chief minister,” said Rai.