Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar will meet elected representatives of Darjeeling district on September 24, the Raj Bhavan said on Saturday, the first such interaction by a Bengal governor in the districts in recent memory surprising politicians and administrators.
According to a release issued by the press secretary to the governor, Dhankhar will be on a one-day visit to Siliguri on Tuesday during which he will inaugurate the new office of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and meet officials and the elected representatives.
According to the release, Dhankhar will meet the DM of Darjeeling, the MP and MLAs of the district, the mayor of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation and the chief of the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad. “He will leave for New Delhi in the evening of the same day,” the release said.
Senior officials said Viren J. Shah, Bengal governor between 1999 and 2004, had held a few meetings with elected representatives and officials during visits to the districts. But in the recent past, no other governor has done so.
“Usually, governors use Siliguri and Bagdogra as transit points while heading to the Raj Bhavan in Darjeeling or returning from there to Calcutta. We have also seen governors attending the convocation of North Bengal University as the chancellor. But we hardly remember a governor visiting Siliguri to interact with public representatives. It is a rare decision,” said a retired bureaucrat who has worked in Siliguri for many years.
The surprise element in the visit is greater as it comes at a time relations between Raj Bhavan and Trinamul have come under strain over the governor’s visit to Jadavpur University to “rescue” Union minister Babul Supriyo from a “gherao” by students.
“I have received a letter of invitation as the MLA and mayor of Siliguri. It is a bit surprising that the governor wants to interact with us directly. But only after I learn about the purpose of this interaction from him can I decide whether to raise any issue before him,” said Asok Bhattacharya, the mayor.
Neeraj Zimba, the GNLF leader who won the Darjeeling Assembly by-election in May on a BJP ticket, expressed happiness at being called to the meet.
“I have a meeting of a standing committee of the Assembly the same day. But if the governor comes here and wants to speak with us, I will try to attend it. He is the constitutional head of the state and being a people’s representative, I feel if we can apprise him on certain issues which needs the government’s attention, he can place them directly before the state and central governments,” said Zimba.
Dhankhar’s decision has, however, led to murmurs as there is none from Trinamul in the list of political invitees. This is because Darjeeling is the only district in Bengal where Trinamul does not have a single MLA.
There are six MLAs from the district, two each from the Congress and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, and two others from the CPM and the BJP. The MP, Raju Bista, is from the BJP while mayor Bhattacharya and the Mahakuma Parishad chief are from the CPM.
Tourism minister Gautam Deb is the MLA from the Dabgram-Fulbari constituency, which covers some wards of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation but falls in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district.
The Raj Bhavan release does not mention the chairpersons of the Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik municipalities (the Darjeeling municipality is run by an administrator). Nor is there any word about the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.