|Deb in Darjeeling town on Sunday. Picture by Suman Tamang|
Darjeeling, March 31: The Trinamul Congress held its first meeting in Darjeeling town today and during which its north Bengal leader Gautam Deb said 48 workers of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and its rival ABGL had joined the party.
Although the break-up of the members from each party who have entered Trinamul could not be confirmed, sources said Morcha leader J.B. Tamang and Manoj Dewan, a former general secretary of the ABGL, joined the ruling party with their supporters.
Asked about Tamang, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said he could not recognise the leader. ABGL leader Pratap Khati said Dewan had resigned from his party two years ago and “even his wife does not support him.”
The former ABGL leader, who had left the party two years ago and has not been with any party before today, said he joined Trinamul as he had started believing in chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s way of functioning.
“The hills are directionless at the moment and the ruling party (Morcha) is simply using the youths. The chief minister is concerned about the hills and she wants to turn Darjeeling into Switzerland. It is also important that we, the people of the hills, work towards achieving this goal,” Dewan said.
Tamang said he joined Trinamul as his grievances were not being heard by senior Morcha leaders. “The garden workers are being deprived of their rights. They are now being made to work nine hours (daily) and when we take up the issue with the central leaders, they tell us that they are aware of all the problems,” said the leader from Sukhia block, 30km from here.
Although Tamang claimed that he was the convener of the Morcha’s union looking after workers in the unorganised sector at Sukhia, Giri said: “I cannot recollect his name. He must have been a cadre and his joining Trinamul, or for that matter even Dewan’s joining the Trinamul, is not something that we are bothered about as they are politically insignificant.”
Khati said: “We had show-caused Manoj Dewan for anti-party activities but instead of replying, he resigned after the Assembly election. As far as his supporters are concerned, I would like to say that even his wife does not support him. Dewan’s wife is the secretary of the Morcha’s teachers’ organisation local unit in Tindharia.”
After Trinamul came to power, the indoor meeting today is the party’s first in Darjeeling town. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has attended government events here.
The meeting at the Gorkha Dukha Niwarak Sammelan Hall here was attended by north Bengal development minister Deb. The last time the minister had come to the hills was on February 12, he was shown black flags by Morcha supporters while on his way down to Siliguri.
“The last time I had gone to Kalimpong, Morcha supporters gheraoed and tried to heckle me. But it was important for me to come to Darjeeling to tell everyone that every citizen has the right to choose one’s political party. This is a constitutional and fundamental right of every citizen of our country,” Deb told the gathering of 150-odd people.
He appointed Rajen Mukhia, a Trinamul leader from Panighata, as the party’s convener for the hills.
“We are planning to hold a rally in Kalimpong on April 7 or 8. Our general secretary Mukul Roy would attend the meeting. We are also planning to hold another meeting in Mirik soon,” Deb said.
He added that the state government was committed to ensure peace, stability and development in the hills.
“It was after many deliberations that the GTA was formed. In a short span of time a lot has been achieved. Few problems might crop up but with discussions, every difficulty can be removed,” Deb said.
“Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has visited the Darjeeling hills 12 times in the last 22 months. A medical college will be set up in Kurseong and an engineering college will be set up most probably in Kalimpong subdivision. I will inaugurate a new circuit house in Kurseong soon,” Deb said.
He added that his department had spent Rs 31 crore in the 2012-13 financial year.