Chamling opts for friendship with Bengal

After embittering the relationship with West Bengal for no apparent reason, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has at last seen reason and agreed to forget the past and open a new chapter of cooperation with Bengal after meeting his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee on Friday. This is a welcome development. But forgetting the past is not so easy. And it is questionable whether Chamling would have realized the need for cooperation had not Mamata been able to isolate and marginalize totally Bimal Gurung and his gang in the Darjeeling hills. West Bengal cannot forget that Chamling had given shelter to Gurung, a fugitive from law, when the West Bengal police were searching for him frantically; that Chamling had fully supported the separate Gorkhaland demand; and that he had gone to the extent of starting a murder case against a senior police officer of West Bengal.
The more pressing need for Chamling to hold out the olive branch to Mamata belatedly and make peace with her lay in the huge financial loss Sikkim would have suffered in the tourist season if West Bengal, in a tit-for-tat action had not banned the entry of commercial vehicles registered in Sikkim into West Bengal for carrying tourists. Formerly, under a mutual agreement, commercial vehicles of both States having route permits could run freely. During the heyday of Gurung’s movement, Sikkim took the unilateral step of not allowing commercial vehicles of West Bengal to go to any place other than Gangtok. It is only when Mamata cancelled the agreement that Chamling woke up to the harsh reality.
But Pawan Chamling has not explained why, in the first place, he poked his nose into the internal politics of West Bengal by giving encouragement and support to a man who was creating widespread disturbances in Darjeeling and had brought normal life to a screeching halt. He has yet to clarify what led him to support Gorkhaland demand even after the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration was set up which enjoyed much wider powers than its predecessor the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. The role of the Centre in indirectly supporting Gurung is another mystery. Did the BJP Government think that keeping Gurung in good humour would help it to retain the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat?  Quibbling over the past does not help but all said, Gurung and his movement and the role played by Chamling and the Centre in dealing with Gurung leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Sunday, 25 March, 2018