Mamata Banerjee goes to Darjeeling hills with promises, lets them all fall flat at the first visible signs of dissent
Shantanu Datta | January 29, 2013
Some leaders are good speakers, some are bad speakers, and a few are good at messing it up every time they are handed the microphone. There’s a difference between the last two; a difference as yawning as the one between, say, Manmohan Singh and Mamata Banerjee.
The former is a bad speaker, rhetorically speaking; the latter isn’t necessarily bad (neither is she particularly good, by the way) but excels at losing the opportunity, or dropping a sitter of a catch, so to speak. How else would you explain the West Bengal chief minister’s public address in Darjeeling on Tuesday?
While asserting that the Darjeeling hills would continue to remain a part of West Bengal, she told the crowd at the north Bengal hill station’s famous Mall: “Let us remain together, Darjeeling is part of Bengal and we will remain together…. There should not be further trouble as that would hamper development again.”
Nothing wrong with that. In the backdrop of the Telangana movement, where Hyderabad and other areas of the region that want out of Andhra Pradesh are hurtling into fresher crises every day, these are just the words Banerjee’s constituents in Bengal’s plains want to hear. But then her anti-leadership, perennially-opposition self took over the moment there was a murmur of dissent.
As a section of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters raised slogans and displayed posters demanding a separate Gorkhaland toward the end of her brief address, Banerjee issued nothing less than a warning, as the PTI reports.
Visibly angry, Banerjee stood up and warned protesters not to raise such “political slogans” at the programme. “Please remember this is not a party programme; this is a government programme,” Banerjee said. “I am very rough and tough in such issues. You are free to give political slogans at party programmes but this is a government programme….
“Please do not give wrong message so that people will think Darjeeling is again going for problem.”
Aside from the incongruity that government and party programmes have never been too far apart for her own party, the Trinamool Congress, it’s rank bad oratory. It’s plain intimidation — that, too, from a chief minister.
Not that Banerjee arrived in the hills with nothing for the local population. Earlier, during her address, she said new tourist spots like Lamahata and Sandakfu had been developed or were being decked up. “Helipads, airports and other world-class facilities will be made available and, after that, tourists from all over the world will flock to Darjeeling,” she said, like her typical pat solution for everything.
She also announced that Rs 80 crore had been sanctioned for national highway-55, the lifeline to the hills from Siliguri in the plains, according to PTI.
Besides, two hydro-power projects were being developed at Teesta and Rimbhi aside from various development activities in Darjeeling and other hill sub-divisions of Kurseong and Kalimpong, she said.
But most of that would not have gone down the throat, let alone the brain or heart, of the locals, especially those opposed to Kolkata’s ‘diktats’. Most would remember the chief minister’s threats, wrath and frustration at meeting opposition. And they would seethe within.
Banerjee might have just worsened the situation in the hills with her immature handling of situations and her tart tongue.
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