TMC's ‘show of strength’ in Mirik before Assembly election

Darjeeling, 19 Jan 2016: Having managed to create a foothold in the hills, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) now wants to test the waters ahead of the Assembly election and will be holding its first political seminar on Wednesday in Mirik.

To ensure an overwhelming turnout on the day, party heavyweights such as Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee, chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, Arup Biswas, the minister in-charge of youth services and housing, and former India team football captain Bhaichung Bhutia, will be some of the prominent figures. The TMC has been politically active in the hills, but Wednesday’s programme has been organised strategically since the chief minister will be arriving for a three-day tour on Thursday. The seminar, set to be held atAaley ground, is also likely to pave the way for the TMC’s forthcoming activities in the hills.

TMC's first political seminar on Wednesday in Mirik
TMC (Hills) spokesperson Binny Sharma said: “This is the first time that the party is organising such a political seminar in the hills. It will be a big boost for our hill based leaders and activists. We have mobilised supporters from all the three sub-divisions of the hills. We expect the attendance to be anywhere between 9,000 and 10,000 people.” The Trinamool-led state government, and in particular, the chief minister with her development dollies and boards, has managed to ensnare sections of the hill population. This is in spite of the fact that the TMC is against the statehood demand and politics in the hills revolve around this deeply embedded sentiment. “During the seminar, we expect party leaders from Kolkata to lay out roadmaps and strategies for future activities in the hills,” said Sharma.

“And most importantly, the Assembly election is just around the corner and we want to ensure our party does well in the region.” As a strategic ploy, the Trinamool had fielded Bhutia from Darjeeling constituency in the last Lok Sabha election. But the ace footballer lost to BJP candidate S.S. Ahluwalia, who was supported by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. But the equations are changing now with the GJM caught blinking when the state cabinet approved the formation of Kalimpong district and Mirik sub-division. In all likelihood, the TMC will capitalise on this development; hence the decision to hold the political seminar in Mirik.

Sharma said: “Besides political activities, we will also deliberate on the state government’s role in developing the hills. Kalimpong will be a district soon and Mirik a sub-division. We will have to focus on the development of Mirik to bring it in the
mainstream because the area has long remained neglected.” Discussions will also be held on the role and work taken up by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration in developing the hills since its inception in August 2012. “The GTA was formed to develop the hills. The people should be made aware of what exactly it has done in the past three years,” said Sharma. The GJM has been accusing the state government of interference in the independent functioning of the GTA and its reluctance in transferring the departments to the hill body as noted in the GTA Memorandum of Agreement and Act.

Senior GJM leaders were not available for comment, but Arun Sigchi, the Sabhasad from Mirik-Soureni constituency, said, “The TMC, or for that matter, any party, can hold political programmes wherever they want in a democracy. However, the Trinamool’s claim of having established a solid base in the hills will have to be proved when they hold their seminar on Wednesday. We would like to see their supporters from the hills and not the plains.”

Source : EOIC

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