The hills have eyes: Telangana likely to rattle Mamata

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Bangalore, July 29: The decision on Telangana in Andhra Pradesh is bound to have a bigger impact in West Bengal politics, where a hill outfit has been demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) has already given call for a 72-hour strike in the hills in northern West Bengal starting on Monday and the state administration led by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) could find its its sweet taste of a probable panchayat election victory diluted by the revival of the Gorkhaland problem.


Telangana has put both GJM and Mamata under stress

The Telangana situation has put both the GJM and TMC leadership under a stress that can not be wished away. The GJM, which has grown on the separate statehood demand, can not afford to stay calm if indeed a separate Telangana is created and its supremo Bimal Gurung will be pushed to the extreme of undertaking a 'decisive' call. He has asked people to leave the hills as soon as possible for none will be spared if indeed there is a revival of violence in those parts, Gurung warned.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had promised to make Darjeeling another Switzerland before she came to power two years ago, has counter-warned the GJM in equally strong words. She said there is a conspiracy to stall development work in the Darjeeling hills and also hit out the Centre on Saturday for fuelling trouble in the hills.

Mamata's Project Switzerland has fallen flat

The state government and GJM had signed an agreement named Gorkhaland Territorial Administration in July 2011 in the presence of central representatives and it had set up a separate autonomous body for Darjeeling. Banerjee had proudly announced thereafter that the perennial problem in the hills was resolved and said 'the hills are smiling'.

But the relation between the GJM and TMC soon started deteriorating over allegations that the state government was undemocratically interfering in the work of the GTA and Banerjee's open criticism at the hills even led to GJM supporters confronting her. The Congress, meanwhile, was accused of siding with the GJM to corner the state government more.

It's a danger either way for GJM

The ball is in the court of the GJM chief at this moment. In case he pulls out of the GTA, the state and the central governments will accuse him of violating the spirit of the agreement and if he doesn't, it will upset the extremist elements in the GJM and he could find himself in the position of Subash Ghising, his mentor and former leader of the Darjeeling hill agitation who lost the plot later.

Is Gorkhaland as a separate state a viable idea?

There is little chance of Gorkhaland getting a separate statehood status for not only the region has a complex social character, but also because of its strategic location. Setting up a separate Gorkhaland alone is not going to solve the problem for the hills for there are several demographic and other social issues attached to it.

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TMC government has failed to tackle the hill situation

The current state administration has tried to maintain a tactical grip in the hills through strategies of appeasing or dividing the hill forces, but they have not delivered. The TMC's lacking a strong organisation in the northern districts of the state and the government's failure in initiating a development process in those parts have left both the ruling party and the GJM frustrated.

And with fresh violence threatening the hills, it looks neither Banerjee nor Gurung have the capacity to keep things under control till the political dynamics in northern West Bengal is changed.

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