Darjeeling: Congress a master of the game Mamata is playing

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday arrested five persons accused in the murder of All India Gorkha League (AIGL) president Madan Tamang from a hotel in Darjeeling. The five suspects, all members of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's (GJM) frontal wings had fled after Tamang was brutally murdered in broad daylight on May 21, 2010, at Upper Clubside Stand in Darjeeling while overseeing preparation for a public meeting. The accused were kept at a CBI lock-up in the town, police sources said. The main suspect, Nicole Tamang, who escaped from the CID custody in August 2010, is still absconding.

Are these arrests hinting at a political ploy?

Is Mamata playing divide and rule?

Possibilities can not be ruled out, particularly when the relation between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the GJM leadership is sharply deteriorating. The widow of the slain AIGL leader, Bharti Tamang, had met Banerjee a few days ago in Kolkata demanding a quick settlement of the murder issue. The CM reportedly told her to wait for the CBI to complete its task and if she was still dissatisfied, then the state investigative agency would take up the issue again. The CID had initially started the probe into the case but demand to hand over the case to the CBI became stronger after Nicole Tamang fled.


Is the state administration instrumental behind Friday's arrests? Is Mamata Banerjee planning to fuel division various forces in the sensitive Darjeeling hills in a bid to blunt the GJM's Gorkhaland movement? Banerjee, it might be recalled, had met minority Lepchas and Buddhists during her visit to the hills last month and promised the formation of a parallel Lepcha development council. May be the general feeling is that through these arrests, the anti-GJM sentiments in the hills could be provoked further.

But the Congress is a better player of the game

But this is only one side of the story. The GJM leadership, which is furious over the state government's 'indifference' towards the Gorkhaland issue and even termed Banerjee as a dictator after she "infringed the jurisdiction of the Gorkha Terrirtorial Administration", is also eyeing a Kautilian strategy of befriending the enemy's enemy.

Sources close to hill politics said that the GJM was aiming to take up its grievance and demands with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. On Friday night, a four-member team of the party reportedly met state Governor M K Narayanan in Kolkata and requested him to arrange for a meeting between PM Singh and party chief Bimal Gurung. The Governor assured them of meeting their demand, one of the GJM members said later, adding that Narayanan also asked them to maintain peace in the region.

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Speculation was rife that the Congress was working to inch closer to the GJM with two aims. One, to gain an access to the Darjeeling seat ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls. The seat is currently occupied by the BJP and the Congress would not let go a chance to oust the BJP. The second reason is more important for through forging an alliance with the GJM, the Congress would hope to take advantage of the state government-GJM rift.

According to a news report, a Congress MLA from Darjeeling district, who is also a top party official in the state, recently met Gurung and if one goes by close sources, the GJM leadership could visit New Delhi soon to meet the Congress top brass. If everything falls in place, the next big polls could see a heavyweight Congress leader contesting from Darjeeling.

The GJM has called a public meeting in Kalimpong on February 17 and political observers feel the party leadership could make some important calls at the meet. Will the announcements ring an alarm bell for CM Banerjee?

Mamata Banerjee's ploy to 'divide and rule' Darjeeling could not only fall flat but also lead to a situation where she would find herself in a political isolation. If Gurung and his team pull out from the GTA in protest and the stability in the hills is consequently threatened, then it would be an immense challenge for Banerjee, who is already struggling with the day-to-day administration, to control things. And the anti-Banerjee leaders of the Congress in the state will not allow an opportunity to corner Banerjee further go waste.

The Congress might have given a masterstroke through the latest CBI arrests for they have all the potential on earth to rattle the relation between Darjeeling and Kolkata further.

We might soon see Banerjee requesting for central forces to help her despite all the scathing attack she has been launching against the Congress in recent times. We have already seen her calling up Preisdent Pranab Mukherjee on Friday to complain about Governor M K Narayanan's allegedly partisan act.

Can the chief minister afford to fuel the hill politics more for short-term benefits?

(With inputs from The Bengal Post)

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