Friday, June 21, 2024
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The Darjeeling Scene

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For several years, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) had been leading the political agitation in Darjeeling district. Following its victory in the municipal elections, it now has a new role, that of running the local administration. The elections were hardly a democratic exercise as GJM nominees were uncontested in many places. The party now faces a formidable challenge. The civic polls had not been held since 2004 as political agitation thwarted the process. The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council’s term was extended in 1999. But it went into inactivity causing a void in the local administration. The democratic system collapsed denying the people basic civil services. The GJM’s militancy scuttled all efforts at effective governance. Normal life in the hills depended on whether the GJM wanted it or not. The inefficiency of the Left Front government in the hills further aggravated the crisis.

GJM leader Bimal Gurung will have to put his best foot forward to tackle the problem of lack of civil services in Darjeeling. The basic structure is in an appalling mess. Roads, supply of drinking water and primary healthcare are in a shambles. What is a plus point for the GJM is its present friendly ties with the Trinamul government in West Bengal. Besides, it has no opposition. Gurung has to prove that his party is not just a disruptive force. His party’s demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland should not be allowed to undermine the municipal administration. Subhas Ghising had failed to deliver. Gurung has to demonstrate that he is made of different stuff. He has to play a constructive role. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should help as she has a stake in developing Darjeeling in order to prove her greater political savvy than her predecessor’s.

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