Hill top brass to give CM a miss

Darjeeling, Jan. 25: Bimal Gurung and other senior leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha are unlikely to meet chief minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to Darjeeling on January 29, sources said.

Although Morcha leaders said it should not be seen as a rift in the relationship between the hill party and the state government, many of them admitted in private that their Delhi programme had helped them avoid an "uncomfortable" situation that might arise if the chief minister and hill leaders meet at a time the Morcha has announced a fresh agitation for statehood.

The Morcha's Delhi and Haryana units are supposed to organise a dharna and a relay hunger strike demanding Gorkhaland at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday.

"Our party president along with other senior leaders will be going to Delhi any day after January 27 as a result of which, they might not be able meet the chief minister during her visit to Darjeeling this time. Other Morcha leaders in Darjeeling along with the chairman and the vice-chairman of the hill municipalities will meet her," said Binay Tamang, the assistant general secretary of the Morcha.

Mamata is expected to be in Darjeeling on January 29 to inaugurate the hill leg of the Uttarbanga Utsav.

"We are saying that Bimal Gurung could leave any day after January 27 as we are trying to meet both the central ministers and the Opposition leaders in Delhi. The dates have not been finalised yet," Tamang said.

Earlier this month, the hill party had announced its "antim ladai" or final battle for a separate state after it learnt from sources that the Centre was planning to announce the formation of Telangana.

The hunger strike in New Delhi is part of the statehood agitation.

Sources said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri and four MLAs of the party would be in Delhi from January 27 to take part in the protest.

"Depending on the emerging situation on Telangana, the relay hunger strike might be converted into a fast unto death," Tamang said.

Seven GTA Sabha members ' central committee members Narbu G. Lama, Taranga Pandit, Anush Thapa, Yogendra Rai, Arun Ghisingh, Samule Gurung and Chandra Yonzone ' left for Delhi today.

"Other leaders of the Nari Morcha and the Yuva Morcha are also expected to leave for Delhi in phases starting from tomorrow," Tamang added.

Some Morcha leaders in Darjeeling admitted in private that a meeting with the chief minister would have been uncomfortable.

"She (Mamata) is known to speak her mind and her utterances in the presence of the senior Morcha leaders could give rise to an uncomfortable situation," said a Morcha leader who did not want to be named.

During the signing of the GTA agreement on July 18, 2011, Mamata had announced in front of Gurung, who has been leading a movement for a separate state for over four years, that Bengal would not be divided.

"Bengal will not be divided (Bangla bhaag hochhena). Darjeeling is not outside West Bengal. It is the heart of West Bengal. We will stay together," Mamata said in her address after the deal had been signed.

Her announcement was greeted with hushed silence from the crowd that had been chanting "we want Gorkhaland", "Bimal Gurung zindabad" and "Mamata didi zindabad," minutes before.

"Such speeches (by the chief minister) will be an embarrassment and will force the Morcha leaders to take drastic steps," said an observer.

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