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27 Apr 2017

CM's barb at Centre

Mamata on Wednesday. Picture by Anirban Choudhury
ANIRBAN CHOUDHURY, TT, Alipurduar, April 26: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today accused the Centre of failing to fulfil the promise of reopening seven Duncans gardens in the Dooars and said activities resumed in some of the plantations because of the state government's initiative.
"The central government had announced that it would acquire seven closed tea estates and facilitate their reopening. However, none of the gardens were acquired and no initiative was taken by the Centre to reopen them. Instead, we took the initiative and facilitated the reopening of a number of gardens. This proves that the BJP lies and misguides people," Mamata said this afternoon.
She was speaking to journalists after attending an administrative review meeting of Alipurduar district held at Kodalbusty, around 40km from, here.
The chief minister was referring to the abandoned tea estates of Duncans Goenka Group. In January last year, the Tea Board of India had taken over the seven gardens of the group. In September, on a petition filed by the company, Calcutta High Court ordered that it could run the gardens but would have to report to the Tea Board after every 15 days.
The state government intervened and held talks with the company's representatives at different levels. So far, three gardens have reopened, while four others are still left abandoned.
"The Centre's move ahead of the Assembly polls (to acquire the gardens), followed by the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Birpara for campaign, had led to surprising results in the Madarihat Assembly seat. The BJP won the seat as a majority of voters of the seven gardens voted for the party with the hope that their ordeal would come to an end," an observer said.
Riding on the strong organisational base of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the BJP gave Trinamul a tough fight in Kalchini constituency, located next to Madarihat. Trinamul could manage to retain the seat by a slim margin of 1,511 votes.
"Since then, Trinamul has been trying to improve its base in the two Assembly segments in Alipurduar district. There are other areas like Kumargram (in Alipurduar district) and some constituencies in the adjoining Jalpaiguri district which are dotted with tea estates. But the BJP it yet to emerge as a major political force there," an observer said.
This is why, he pointed out, the chief minister has drawn attention to the Duncans gardens to drive home the point that the state, and not the Centre, had taken an effective role in reopening the abandoned tea estates.

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