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10 Feb 2017

Even Before Official Announcement, Jan Andolan Party Eyes Massive Share In Kalimpong

Amitava Banerjee | Millenium Post| 8 Feb 2017 11:28 AM | Darjeeling: The Jan Andolan Party (JAP) is all set to grab a big slice from the Kalimpong district's pie. Even before the announcement of Kalimpong as a new district, which is slated to be done on February 14 by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, JAP has lined up a "Kalimpong Jana Fest" on February 9 to celebrate the historic event.

The Kalimpong Jana Fest will be held at the Mela Ground in the heart of Kalimpong town on February 9, the same venue from where the CM is slated to announce Kalimpong a district on February 14. At present, Kalimpong is a sub-division in the Darjeeling district.

"The festival will include dancing, singing and fancy dress competitions. Bands will also perform on that day. Wewill celebrate the historic event," stated Pradeep Chhetri, JAP Coordinator, Kalimpong. With JAP having a largely youth support base, the event is largely youth oriented.

Interestingly, JAP  had come into existence riding piggyback on the demand for a separate Kalimpong district. Dissident Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM- the party in power in the Hills) leader and former Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri had floated the party on January 27, 2016. The party is largely Kalimpong centric.
Chhetri had fallen out with  GJM president Bimal Gurung and the GJM party with Gurung ordering all the three Hill MLAs to resign from the West Bengal Assembly in 2015. Dubbing Gurung's move as autocratic, Chhetri instead resigned from the GJM, preferring to continue as the Kalimpong MLA.

Chhetri had then raised the demand for the upgradation of the Kalimpong sub-division into a district. The demand found a lot of takers and soon, the Kalimpong District Demand Committee (KDDC) was constituted with Chhetri at the helm.

On December 18, 2015,  the West Bengal Cabinet gave a nod to  the formation of the Kalimpong district and Mirik sub-division, further boosting Chhetri and the KDDC's morale. Challenging the GJM might, Chhetri then floated JAP thereby, dissolving KDDC.

Trinamool Congress, JAP and GNLF had forged an alliance during the 2016 Assembly elections. Though the GJM managed to retain the Kalimpong seat, the alliance created a major dent in the Morcha's armour. GJM's winning margin dipped by nearly 50 percent as compared to the 2011 Assembly elections.

However, with the TMC making steady inroads in the Darjeeling Hills and JAP trying to expand its support base, chances of future alliances between the two are on shaky grounds. During her last visit to Kalimpong, CM Mamata Banerjee had made it clear that it is an independent decision of her government to create a Kalimpong district (read – not influenced by others.)

"It is not who is creating the district that matters. The very fact that the district is being created is historic. People will benefit greatly. The GJM-run GTA has failed miserably. Road connectivity, health services and even basic civic amenities in Kalimpong is in dire straits. A district will bring with it socio-economic development. We are grateful to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for taking such an important step," stated Chhetri.

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