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Gautam Deb plays development card to garner votes in Bijanbari

state minister in-charge of tourism, Gautam Deb
The warring Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Trinamool Congress are in no mood to let-off especially after the September 28 face-off, with both parties trying to get the better of the  other in the run up to the Panchayat and council elections slated later this year.
In Bijanbari, TMC leader and state minister in-charge of tourism, Gautam Deb, played the development card today to garner votes for the panchayat election. In Darjeeling, the GJM organised a symbolic  padyatra that started from three different places and converged at Singamari, for the statehood demand and to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.
Deb reached Bijanbari block, 32km from Darjeeling, yesterday and he attended a public meeting this morning that had been organised by the local TMC unit. “Bijanbari has been neglected by the GTA under the GJM. There is no development here. But if we win the panchayat election, our party will persuade the chief minister to convert Bijanbari into a sub-division. We will soon make Kalimpong a  district and Mirik a sub-division, as announced by our chief minister,” he said.
More than 500 families from the GJM and the CPM joined the TMC and accepted the party flag from the minister, who after a short speech headed to Darjeeling to attend the Gandhi Jayanti programme organised by the state information and cultural information department.
At the Gorkha Ranga Mancha Bhawan in Darjeeling, where GJM supporters had gathered for a meeting, party general secretary Roshan Giri pepped up the young crowd saying they should be ready to lay down their lives for a Gorkhaland state. “Gorkhaland is not impossible as the demand is constitutional. However, we must be ready to struggle and even give our lives to achieve our demand,” the GJM leader said.
The GJM and TMC had a face-off when the former announced a 12-hour strike in the hills on September 28 denouncing chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim that the state government had given Rs4,000 crore for development works in the hills. Both claimed an upper hand, with the GJM asserting the bandh had been a success, while the TMC claimed to have thwarted the strike.
The GJM has alleged that the chief minister visits the hills with intentions to foment trouble, while Banerjee and her party leaders assert they would continue to come to the hills to look into the problems  of the people. Deb reiterated the chief minister's stand that the GTA had failed to deliver in spite of all the help received from the state government. “The state government has given lots of funds to the GTA  to develop the hills. But they (GTA) have failed to work for the people. Give us a chance and we will usher in all-round development of the region,” said the minister.
The GJM general secretary, meantime, highlighted the alleged atrocities and suppression by the state government and the need to continue pursuing the statehood demand. “Our voice for a separate state  is being suppressed by Bengal. They are using every trick in the book to divide us and make us weak. We must not break and must continue with our demand for a separate state,” Giri asserted.
The GJM today lifted its ongoing relay hunger strike that started on August 24 in Darjeeling. “Looking at the present situation of the country, such as the preoccupation with the Uri attack and its retaliation  and also conceding to the request made by our MP S.S. Ahluwalia, we have decided to postpone our ongoing agitation. We must give priority to our country’s issues,” said Bhaskar Rai, vice president of the Gorkha Janmukti Vidhyarthi Morcha, which is spearheading the statehood demand. (EOIC)

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