|Darjeeling municipality chairman Rai and Trinamul leaders hold the
joint news conference. (Suman Tamang)
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 4: A rare political scene unfolded in Darjeeling today when Amar Singh Rai, the chairman of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-controlled municipality, held a joint press conference with the Trinamul Congress (hill) leadership in his chamber.
The Trinamul leaders met the chairman to submit a memorandum that dealt with issues like the collapse of a staircase in Darjeeling town last month and settlement of hawkers. Nobody could recollect Trinamul and the Morcha displaying bonhomie at least in the recent past as was shown today.
Although there had been ups and downs in the equations between the Morcha and Trinamul, for a couple of years, both the parties have been on a warpath. In fact, one of the Morcha’s main mottos in the Assembly election was the defeat of Trinamul which the hill party alleged was dividing the region.
Rai was the Morcha’s candidate for the Darjeeling Assembly seat, while one of the Trinamul delegation members, Sharda Rai Subba, was also in the fray.
N.B. Khawash, the general secretary, Trinamul (hill), and Milan Dukpa, a nominated GTA Sabha member, were also part of the delegation. The Trinamul leaders, who had obtained an appointment to submit the memorandum, reached the Darjeeling municipality office around 3pm today.
Rai, along with vice-chairman Suk Bahadur Biswakarma, and other officials met the delegation for more than an hour in the chairman’s chamber. Soon after the meeting, Khawash met the waiting journalists outside the chairman’s chamber. At that particular moment, Sharda Rai Subba suggested that the media could be addressed jointly by the chairman and the delegation on the outcome of the meeting.
Khawash then returned to the chairman’s chamber with the proposal which was instantly agreed upon by Rai.
Rai said: “TMC leaders today came to submit a deputation as concerned residents of the town and we had a very fruitful discussion in a congenial atmosphere.”
The memorandum was on the collapse of a staircase connecting HD Lama Road and Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling, possibility of a sabotage in the recent fire at a municipality building at Daroga Bazar, steps against high-rises and the issue of permanent settlement of hawkers.
“The municipality has informed the delegation that the staircase collapsed because of the construction of a market complex. We have filed an FIR against the builders, directed them to construct the staircase and stop the work on the market complex now. The municipality will also be monitoring the construction at every stage,” said Rai.
Trinamul said the width of the staircase should not be narrowed. On the Daroga Bazar fire, the Darjeeling municipality said an FIR had been filed and it was looking at the police’s investigation.
Khawash said: “We thank the municipality for giving us time and hearing our grievances. We just want the municipality to show the political will to tackle the issues and Trinamul will also support the civic body.”
Asked if the move to raise municipality-centric issues was prompted by the civic election which is due at the end of the year, Khawash said: “No, we simply raised the issues today as concerned people and it has nothing to do with elections.”