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Mamata Banerjee voices poll anguish

Feel sad hills voted for an outsider: CM

By Vivek Chhetri in Kurseong

  • Published 24.10.19, 1:54 AM
  • Updated 24.10.19, 1:54 AM
Mamata Banerjee at the meeting in Kurseong on Wednesday
Mamata Banerjee at the meeting in Kurseong on Wednesday Passang Yolmo

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said she felt sad when a “son-of-the-soil” did not get votes for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, expressing such anguish for the first time though Trinamul has lost most hill elections except the 2017 Mirik civic polls.

“I am sorry to say this…..I should not utter these words in an administrative meeting but I feel sad when a son-of-the-soil, Amarji, does not get (votes) and when an outsider spends a lot of money and goes with it (wins the election),” Mamata said in Kurseong.

Amar Singh Rai of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Binay Tamang camp) had contested the Lok Sabha polls this year on a Trinamul ticket. Rai, a former MLA, was defeated by BJP’s Raju Bista — a Gorkha from Manipur — by a margin of more than 4 lakh votes.

Speaking during her first visit to the hills since the Lok Sabha polls this summer, Mamata said: “If you don’t like me, don’t give me votes, but give your vote to a local person.”

The chief minister was addressing an administrative meeting attended by officials of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts at the Kurseong Town Hall on Wednesday.

She was discussing a proposal to set up a Kishan Mandi (a farmers’ market) and an IT unit along the Sukna-Pankhabari area when she suddenly talked about a Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) property torched during the 2017 statehood agitation. “What can I do? You did not allow me to work….,” she lamented before speaking her mind on the elections.

The “son-of-the-soil versus the outsider” was a key plank of the Trinamul-Morcha (Binay Tamang camp) in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Mamata said she was not interested in the three hill MLA seats but added that she wanted to develop the area. “I will not come here to buy your land, to buy a house,” she said.

That was followed by a dig at the BJP. “In the name of NRC (National Register of Citizens), the Citizen Amendment (Bill), I will not come here to burn the hills,” Mamata said.

The loss in Darjeeling — Mamata’s alliance not only lost the parliamentary polls but also the Darjeeling Assembly byelection — seemed to be playing on the chief minister’s mind. Rai held the Darjeeling Assembly seat before he quit to contest the general election.

When Anit Thapa, chairman of the board of administrators of the GTA, drew Mamata’s attention to the lack of employment opportunities since 1986, Mamata said: “Let it (the hills) settle down first.”

Rohit Sharma, Kurseong MLA, received the same “let the hills settle down first” riposte when he raised some issues related to GTA employees.

At the meeting, the 16 development boards that Mamata has formed in the hills came under the scanner. “We will conduct an audit on the funds given to development boards, the houses that have been completed, those unfinished and whether the funds have been properly utilised, after which we will review the development boards,” she said.

Observers believe Mamata was probably of the opinion that the boards would help strengthen her alliance in the hills. “The recent election results have proved that boards have not been able to make the desired impact in the hills,” said an observer.