|Mamata Banerjee at a meeting with representatives of development boards at Town Hall in Kalimpong on Wednesday; (below) late Subash Ghisingh. Picture by Passang Yolmo|
RAJEEV RAVIDAS AND VIVEK CHHETRI, TT,Feb. 15: Thousands of people from across the hills joined the Trinamul Congress today even as chief minister Mamata Banerjee said a strategy was being worked out to promote the new district of Kalimpong as a tourism hotspot.
Trinamul claimed that the new entrants numbered around 5,000 and were from different communities and walks of life, including transporters, traders, students and lawyers.
PWD minister Arup Biswas welcomed the new entrants by handing them party flags at the Mela Ground in Kalimpong. They were called to the dais to receive the Trinamul flags community and job-wise.
"Mamata Banerjee is the only one who can bring about development...Give us one chance in the election, we will do in two years what others could not do in 20 years," Biswas told the gathering.
Biswas, who is also Trinamul's minder for the hills, without naming the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, dared the hill party to reveal the development work carried out by the GTA in the past five years, instead of indulging in empty talks. "They have done nothing...Tell us what you have done. You are in the GTA and in the municipalities. Why people have to run to Mamata (for development)?" he said.
Binny Sharma, the spokesman for Trinamul (hills), said this was only the beginning and more and more people would be joining the ruling party in the coming weeks. "We will be mobilising more people from every corner of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. The days of the Morcha are numbered as it has failed to deliver on all fronts. People are for development," he said.
The chief minister, who chaired an administrative meeting of the new district, said Kalimpong would be developed as a tourist destination. "There are many places (of tourism interest) from Sillery to Mongpong. We will give all of them importance and develop them... We will work out a tourism strategy," she said.
Mamata listed a number of government properties that were being refurbished to make them attractive to tourists. Plans, she added, are also afoot to shift the jail from its present location in the heart of the town and construct a mall - just like the one in Darjeeling - in its place.
Mamata said Lava-Lolaygaon would be upgraded to a block and tourism facilities developed. Lava and Lolaygaon are now gram panchayats under Algarah block. The other two blocks in the district are Kalimpong I and Gorubathan.
The chief minister announced that Buddha Purnima would be declared a state holiday in keeping with the wishes of the Buddhist community of the hills. "We are announcing Buddha Purnima as a state holiday. People will be happy. There are a lot of Buddhists here," she said.
Sanjay Moktan, the chairman of Tamang Development and Cultural Board, thanked the chief minister for declaring Buddha Purnima as a state holiday. "We had requested the chief minister for a holiday on Buddha Purnima. We are grateful to her for acting on our request," he said.
Mamata had yesterday laid the foundation stone for a community hall in Kurseong in memory of late GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh in an apparent attempt to further cement ties with the Morcha's arch rival.
The Subash Ghisingh Memorial Community Hall at Dow Hill in Kurseong is the first project to be named after the late leader. The GNLF had supported Trinamul in the last Parliament and Assembly elections.
Neeraj Zimba, the spokesman for the GNLF, said: "It was a unilateral decision of the government as we had not demanded the same. Nevertheless, we express our gratitude to the chief minister for recognising a tall leader like Subash Ghisingh who is beyond politics."
The GNLF reiterated its earlier demands associated with Ghisingh. "We want the government to posthumously confer Padma Sri on Subash Ghisingh. We also want the Rohini Road to be named after our leader and the government should allow us to erect his statue in the Darjeeling Mall Road area," said Zimba.
Trinamul said the decision to name the community hall after Ghisingh was not politically motivated. "We enjoy a very good relation with the GNLF. Since it is the government's decision, we cannot comment much. But I think it is the government's move to pay respect to Subash Ghisingh," said Binny Sharma.
The Morcha, however, said Mamata had taken the move to endear herself to GNLF supporters.