Deb hits out at Congress

The Telegraph

Siliguri, March 5: Minister Gautam Deb today said the Congress was playing with fire for narrow political gains in the hills by hobnobbing with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

Deb’s jab at the Congress came on a day when Morcha chief Bimal Gurung in Delhi met central Congress home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and complained that the Trinamul-led state government was interfering in the affairs of the GTA.“It is unfortunate that some Congress leaders are playing with fire to meet their narrow political interests. Being a party at the helm of affairs at the Centre, the Congress has a larger role to play in the hills, instead of fuelling tension there,” Deb, the north Bengal development minister, told journalists here.

“The Centre is one of the three signatories to the GTA agreement, and like the state government, has the responsibility to ensure that the GTA Sabha functions smoothly. If there is renewed tension in the hills, it will impede development,” Deb said.

Trinamul, and particularly Deb, have been upset from the time Shankar Malakar, who is the Congress Darjeeling district president (plains), met Gurung and assured him that the Centre would help him in running the GTA if he faced any problem.

Malakar is also believed to be involved in setting up meetings between Gurung and central ministers. Both Malakar and junior Union minister Deepa Das Munshi were present with Gurung and Roshan Giri today when they met home minister Shinde.

Asked about Morcha president Gurung’s statement that the party wouldn’t hold talks with the state government in the future on Gorkhaland, Deb said today: “It doesn’t matter whether they (Morcha leaders) are banking on the Congress or avoiding Trinamul. Changing political situations have a bearing on the Morcha’s decisions. The Congress should realise that by appeasing the Morcha, it cannot simply mount pressure on the state government. People across the hills are responding positively to the state government’s initiative for development and nobody.”

He said the state government hoped that the representatives of the GTA Sabha, who were elected by people with a lot of aspirations, would also work for the development of the region. The minister acknowledged the concerns expressed by the stakeholders of tourism industry over the Morcha’s call for strikes and shutdowns in the hills in the coming weeks and said he would take up the matter with the chief minister.

Deb also said Trinamul would go ahead with its plan for political activities in the hills. “We are in power in the state and would carry out political works in the hills in a responsible way. (Trinamul general secretary) Mukul Roy is in Bangladesh now and once he returns, discussions would be held with him on our plans for the hills.” Trinamul had said it would hold a rally in the third week of March either at Mirik or Kalimpong.

Complaint

C.P. Khatiwara, the convener of the Trinamul Youth Congress in the hills, today filed a complaint with Kalimpong police, saying eight Morcha workers barged into his house at Kagey last night and threatened him with dire consequences if he did not leave Trinamul. The Morcha has denied the charge.

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