Dr. Harka Bahadur Chettri, former MLA from Kalimpong and the President of Jan Andolan Party (JAP), who gave a tough competition to the ruling GJM in the recently held Bengal Assembly elections, gets candid with the DT on his electoral debacle and his future plans.
Considered as one of major players in the politics of Darjeeling hills by the political pundits, Dr Chettri could be a potential game changer in the hill politics of Darjeeling in coming days, despite his lost to Morcha in Kalimpong assembly constituency.
The DT Editor-in-Chief Udhyan Chamling Rai managed to catch up with Dr. Harka Bahadur Chettri (HBC) in Kalimpong last Friday, and gain insight into JAP supremo’s future plans and other concerns.
DT: Did you expect the Assembly elections result as such… Are you shocked?
HBC: To be very candid, I was not certain of anything but the kind of response that I got wherever I went it was so overwhelming that I never thought that this kind of result would be coming…. even the IB report was such that margin would be not less than 30 thousand in my favour…..
DT: Whether you followed it or not but we had published Opinion Poll of Darjeeling hills almost one and half month before the elections result, which was almost matched.
HBC: I don’t know… one thing I must tell you that the kind of areas I travelled, the kind of response I got was practical on ground situation, your forecast might have matched exactly, I have nothing to say about that… the kind of home work you and I did…
DT: It was academic exercise based on past elections results and current ground reality?
HBC: Probably in your academic exercise other thing which was also included the possibilities that these people would do… immoral, unethical whatever they are capable of….
DT: Basically they (GJM) are 10 year old and cadre based party and you (JAP) were just about 2 months old infant while going to election?
HBC: As a party, we might have been just two months old but as a politician I am much older than Bimal Gurung. During Ghisingh’s rule, there were no opposition – Sunchari, the local vernacular, was probably the only “opposition”, and Harka Bahadur the columnist there was the only opposition even then… For the fact, I used to get regular threats too
DT: What do you think that really went wrong in this recent Assembly election?
HBC: Nothing went wrong, I don’t think anything went wrong. For a politician, you know, who immediately wants success, everything went wrong. If my intention was just to become a MLA, I would have been with GJM, automatically I would become so…that was not my purpose, I could see that no right thinking man has any place in that political party, as Trilok Dewan rightly said it all controlled by the kind of people who belong to lowest rank in the society, so far as their mental capacity is concerned and the state knew inside out….
DT: So, you were mentally prepared for both?
HBC: I was mentally prepared for JAP, I was and I am still… this fight is on. Now I am retiring also, I’ll give my 100% time in this. After my defeat, I thought that people would stop coming to me and things would be little bit difficult. But on the contrary, the stream of visitors have been increased, people from Dhodray, Balasan, Bijanbari, Peshok etc are coming.
Now, my point is this, at least we want to start politics with some ethics, issues which have long term, which need to be taken care of, as a politician you have to be the guardian of the place, and instead of that there is in Nepali term ‘Bhrama lutai’, that’s what going on here. Whether in Kalimpong or Darjeeling, take stroll on the street, you will see of almost 5 years of GJM rule, has failed even to overhaul a drinking water system, how could they achieve separate state! They don’t have vision, roadmap, plans… only they know is to ask for more money.
DT: What are the issues that JAP raised so far?
HBC: Last December, after I raised the issue of Land Rights of Tea Gardens, Cinchona and Forest villagers in the Bidhan Sabha, towards the end of December 2015, I met Land Reform Principal Secretary, Mr. Manoj Panth with a Memorandum that contains every detail of our demands. He said he will work thoroughly on it and come up with comprehensive report. I had a meeting with Mr. Sanjay Mitra, then Chief Secretary and present Chief Secretary, who was at that time Home Secretary Mr. Basudev Bandhopadhaya, discussed with all our issues and will be in reality soon as they have taken it very positively…at the end of the day the final essence is that is a home state.
DT: If those issues be implemented as you mentioned, don’t you think that credit will go to GJM as they are in power now?
HBC: See, my concern is… they are trying to take the credit of Kalimpong district also, isn’t it! So, if I am more concerned about credits, then I would not have entered into politics because I know what kind of wolves are there in politics. Somebody else does the hunting and somebody else has the flesh, I know that, even after knowing that, if you take it as Mission, if you are honest, it will take not much, within two and half months of time what we have been able to show, you will see within two years, we will setup such standard in politics that people who are incapable, incompetent will automatically discouraged participating in politics.
DT: Do you think Kalimpong district will be in reality….. Will it happen?
HBC: It will happen because precisely the reason on December 18, Chief Minister brought the cabinet approval for the Kalimpong district. She called me, I was in Assembly itself, because GJM was making some noise in the hills, something is going to happen and GJM was to take the advantage. She told me should I defer it? If I was aiming at political advantage, I would have said, Yes Mam, please defer it for the time being… But I said, No Mam, you have seen the place, I have been lobbying since 2012, raised the issue several times in the Assembly, discussed it with you personally wherever I had occasion, whenever I met you, you know entire constituency how big it is, this has to happen, then she had said, Okey! I’ll declare but I’ll mention your name so that they cannot take the credit and she mentioned my name.
On May 23,2016, we had almost 40 minutes talks in Kolkata, I told CM, let this result of Elections should not hamper the formation of Kalimpong district, she has fully assured me.
DT: Since GJM is in power now, they are to take credit of Kalimpong district…..
HBC: There is no chance that GJM should take credit because GJM always opposed Kalimpong district demand. On February 2015, I raised the issue in Assembly, as I was coming out from Assembly house, Ananda Bazar Ptrika asked me, do you have the backing of the party when you are talking about Kalimpong district? I told, Yes, Why not! But Ananda Bazar Patrika said, Roshan Giri’s statement is different, Giri has said that we have not sent Harka Bahadur to demand Kalimpong district in Assembly, which is printed in Ananda Bazar Patrika.
Bimal Gurung himself on January 28 at Mela ground said, Kalimpong district will never happen, go and ask Bhutan and cancel the lease first, you don’t understand, please explain them, there cannot be full-fledged district.
So, two days before CM’s oath taking ceremony, why did CM call the Meeting of Chief Secretary and Home Secretary and told that straightaway start the process of five districts, because she is senior politician, she knew that if she does later then GJM will claim the credit for something against which they have been working all the time but now they are in Assembly. It was the act of preempting that possibility.
DT: Do you support separate Siliguri district?
HBC: I have no moral right to comment on Siliguri. It is for the people to decide, it is democracy, if they feel, if there is popular support, why not!
DT: Now three GJM MLAs are representing hills in state assembly, TMC government is not in favour of GJM, Do you think its disposal of hills people’s mandate? Do you think it will hamper the development in the hills?
HBC: That is what they have to understand, this is one point which I had been trying to hammer into Bimal Gurung’s head, since the day I was with him. In July 13, 2012, when CM had come to Kalimpong, she wanted to go to my place for a cup of Tea, I had no option but to invite her, how can I say, don’t come that my party people don’t like it, they started doubting me that I have already joined TMC, so, this was the party I was, I can’t say that….
DT: Don’t you think that TMC tag on you has been the damaging factor for you?
HBC: I don’t consider so. That would be the most idiotic thing for the people of Darjeeling. On one hand, their leader is prostrating before Mamata Banerjee. On other hand, they were unhappy when CM visited to my house, they changed their attitude, nobody spoke that incident in front of me, all calculated kind of silence, I broke the news saying that this is what happened and she had been to my place, but all grave faces, nobody wanted to comment anything, Bimal, Roshan, Binay etc. all of them were there, then I told Bimal Gurung, “See Bhai, doesn’t matter whether I have good relation with CM or not but you have to have good relation with her, otherwise, you cannot work.”
You don’t know politics is not all the time strategy, its personal contact, personal touch, diplomacy and of course all that you have to have some knowledge also which Bengali pride so much. Today my own people don’t like me here, many of them, I know but kind of fan following in Kolkata, they consider me as most learned person.
DT: You have such reputation down there as well as among TMC leadership, will it lead to some ministerial post of the hills in near future?
HBC: These things are not my subject, I am not going to comment on that because there is nothing so far, and I have a party to take consent from everybody. Nothing of sort, no step has been taken, no approach has been made, it’s all speculation of people.
The kind of support that I have, we are literarily going behind every project of the hills, will make them work, in no time people will realize what’s the importance of having an Opposition within two months of time, the kind of roads, drains they have made, which they had not done for last 4 years. If people fail this time to realize the importance of Opposition, then they don’t deserve the leader like me.
DT: Do you have anything to say?
HBC: I request Morcha, they have amassed enough wealth for themselves, their Gorkhaland already made, now work for the people. When seven Tea gardens were closed down, Morcha leaders were playing the role of broker with the Management. Don’t go for “Harayeki ama khojnu”, go for the wages which these tea gardens workers have not got so far, how many festivals they were unable to celebrate, what pitiable situation they are in, work for them, then you don’t have to fear Harka Bahadur.
DT: What about Gorkhaland, since you have mentioned in your manifesto too, what JAP would be doing on Gorkhaland issue?
HBC: Within two months, we have already prepared a Bill, handed over to Darjeeling MP and response of MP was, you first get it through State Assembly, now where is that provision. He knows these are bunch of fools, if I say, Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali…..
DT: What do you have immediate plans for Gorkhaland?
HBC: We already made the Bill for Gorkhaland, if MP doesn’t, then we’ll seek the permission, we will dispatch that Bill, ask MP because he is there, he came to power only with that slogan, he should be doing this, we will make him do that. But instead of doing anything on Gorkhaland issue, they are doing activities on Municipality elections, GTA elections and aiming for 2019 MP elections.
Otherwise, when five state of prospective Tribal are getting go ahead from the Prime Minister, how come we are left out? The same PM who from Nagarkatta, specifically uttered every name of Gorkha community, how it is not there? Bimal Gurung should reply, he has already thanked in huge hoarding with the pictures of PM and Bimal Gurung, congratulating PM for giving tribal status to 11 Gorkha communities. So, accordingly it’s already got but here the process has not started yet. How long you can fool everybody, you can fool some people for sometime but not everybody for all time……
DT: So you have made Gorkhaland Bill and now handing over to MP, what are other plans?
HBC: There are plenty….. (As Bureau meeting of JAP was going on, he had to leave us…..this was just informal 20 minutes meet with Dr. Chettri during Break at his office premises in Kalimpong on June 3.]
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