Union finance minister and veteran Congress leader on Tuesday termed Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's promise of unconditional support to Congress nominees as an election strategy.
This marks a departure from the Trinamool Congress's reaction branding Gurung's pledge as a CPI(M) ploy to malign the image of Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee.
The veteran Congress leader, who wound up his two-day visit to Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling on Tuesday, said, "The Congress believes in multi-party democracy, where one party is free to extend support to the other."
Speaking to media persons on the sidelines of an election meeting, Mukherjee said, "The political problems dogging the Darjeeling Hills would be solved once a new government takes charge in West Bengal."
Mukherjee featured in joint road shows of the Congress and Trinamool in Matigara-Naxalbari and Phansidewa assembly constituencies in Darjeeling and also addressed supporters at these places on Tuesday.
According to Mukherjee, the Congress wants a permanent solution to the political and administrative problems in the Hills and that the Centre is in favour of granting regional autonomy through tripartite talks between the Centre, state and the GJM.
The tripartite talks would resume once the assembly polls get over, as per the proposed modalities of the interim administrative set-up, Hills could be in line for more autonomy than was previous granted under the tripartite accord in 1988 that resulted in the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, said the finance minister.
"We would strive to solve the Hills crisis along the same lines as Rajiv Gandhi had done with Subash Ghisingh (GNLF chief). We want a permanent solution and believe that the problems can be sorted through dialogues and negotiations," said the finance minister.