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Mamata Banerjee to campaign in kurseong hills on March 15 - Development boards boost TMC hope

Mamata Banerjee
The hill unit of the Trinamul Congress today said Mamata Banerjee would hold a public meeting in Kurseong on March 15 betraying the party's hope that it could pose a major challenge to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Assembly polls on the back of the launch of development boards for different communities.
Binny Sharma, general secretary, Darjeeling (hill) Trinamul, said: "Our leader, Miss Mamata Banerjee, will be addressing a public meeting in Kurseong on March 15. Although the venue has not been fixed, it will most probably be held at Monteviot ground."
Trinamul sources in Calcutta couldn't confirm if Mamata would speak in Kurseong, but said she was likely to kick off her election campaign from the hills.
Shanta Chhetri, who had been elected to the Assembly three times on GNLF ticket, was fielded by Trinamul in the Kurseong seat. Sarda Rai Subba and Harka Bahadur Chhetri have been fielded by the party in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, respectively, though confusion prevails over the latter's candidature. Elections will be held to the three hill Assembly segments on April 17.
Sharma said Mamata was also expected to campaign for a day in Siliguri on March 14.
Sources in Trinamul said Mamata was confident that Trinamul would put up a strong fight in the three seats. "The confidence stems from the fact that she has formed separate development boards for many hill communities and she expects their support for Trinamul candidates," a Trinamul leader said on condition of anonymity.
So far, development boards have been formed for Lepchas, Tamangs, Sherpas, Bhutias and Mangars. The chief minister has announced development boards for the Limbus and Rais as well, but they have not been formed yet. These communities together make up over 50 per cent of the hill population.
The elections, observers believe, will show if political benefits will accrue to Trinamul from the boards. "This is the elections where it will be clear whether Mamata's development boards have managed to win the hearts of the hill people," said an observer.
The Morcha, on the other hand, has been alleging that the boards were formed with an intention to divide and rule the hill population.
Shanta Chhetri who had joined Mamata's party on February 22, 2014, said she would not speak against anyone in the campaign. "A week after my house had been burnt down by Morcha activists on February 18, 2010, my husband died and people were not allowed to attend the funeral. I have gone through the worst. Yet, I will not speak against anyone in the election campaign," she said.(TT)

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