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11 Dec 2017

Focus on CM grip on hills in trip plan

Mamata Banerjee
Avijit Sinha, TT, Siliguri: Mamata Banerjee's proposed visit to the Darjeeling hills at the end of December has triggered a question if the chief minister is gradually recovering her lost ground and the BJP is losing the edge it had in the region.
Mamata is expected to go uphill later this month to attend a tourism festival and an investors' session.
The hills had plunged into turmoil during Mamata's last trip to Darjeeling in June and since then, political landscape of Darjeeling has changed. Bimal Gurung has gone into hiding and the Binay Tamang-Anit Thapa duo had snatched the control of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha from him with the support of the Bengal government.
"Mamata kept conceding space to people like Tamang, who is now at the helm of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. The state's decision to accept some of his demands have also helped Mamata," said an observer.
According to him, the situation can turn volatile again in the hills as Gorkhaland remains an emotive issue. "But right now, there is little doubt that Mamata has gained ground," said the observer.
Amid the sense of apparent peace, the BJP seems to be in a disarray, though it had a presence both in the hills and the foothills because of its electoral understanding with the Morcha.
In the hills, the BJP was enjoying support even during the initial days of the latest statehood agitation but the absence of S.S. Ahluwalia, the Darjeeling MP, went against the saffron camp.
"The hill people felt that the party that had promised to consider the demand for a separate state had ditched them," said the observer.
The fact that the BJP has lost prominence in the hills became clear with the attack on state BJP president Dilip Ghosh and some other party leaders in Darjeeling on October 5.
In contrast, Trinamul has managed to get most Morcha leaders and workers across the Dooars on board.
"Mamata played her cards well. The instruction to Trinamul leaders in the hills was to lie low and abstain from political activities and let Tamang rise to prominence. She simultaneously gave importance to GNLF leaders by accommodating them in the new hill development committee. All these things worked in her favour," said an observer.

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