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13 May 2017

JAP strives to spread wings

Harka Bahadur Chhetri addresses a rally in Kalimpong on Friday
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 12: The Jana Andolan Party, which is a little over a year old, is trying to place itself as a "party with a difference" in the hills. However, in the run up to the civic polls, indications are clear that its sphere of influence has not gone beyond Kalimpong.
In some innovative moves, the JAP has started a practice of doing away with the concept of having leaders on dais. All JAP leaders stay with their supporters and only the speaker takes the dais during his turn to speak. This, the JAP maintains, is to send a message that hero worshipping must stop in hill politics.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri's party also held elections for most of its posts. JAP supporters are known to clean walls off posters after events are over.
They have protested at places like Siliguri, Calcutta and Delhi and the party has come up with innovative ideas for every programme.
However, the "party with a difference" has not made much difference outside Kalimpong.
Apart from Kalimpong, the JAP has not been able to field candidates in all wards of the other three civic bodies.
The JAP has fielded candidates in five of 32 wards in Darjeeling, six out of 20 in Kurseong and six out of nine in Mirik.
Amar Lama, a bureau member of the JAP, admits that its influence has been predominantly limited to Kalimpong. "Outside Kalimpong, a high-pitched battle revolving around money power is being fought between the Morcha and Trinamul and this is where we lost out," said Lama.
The leader also admitted that the JAP's perceived closeness to Trinamul had cost the party. "We were projected as a B-team of Trinamul by our opponents. This is also a reason for our failure to expand our organisation beyond Kalimpong," said Lama.
In this election, the JAP refused to contest the election as an ally of Trinamul. In the last Assembly election, the JAP, Trinamul and the GNLF were allies.
On Thursday, Chhetri also decided to resign as the vice-chairman of North Bengal Development Council. The resignation is a clear example of the JAP intention to work differently now.
"One has to be patient in politics at times. We are slowly working on our organisational strength and we are confident that we will make a difference," said Lama.

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