CPI(M) star campaigner MP Sitaram Yechury ran into a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) public meeting at Kurseong, midway to Darjeeling, where he was slated to make a public address.
Finally, after a gruelling five-hour-long traffic jam, Yechury made it to Darjeeling barely 15 minutes before the end of the permissible time for the meeting. Yechury recommended a powerful autonomy under the Sixth Schedule as a panacea for the Gorkha impasse.
Arriving around 4.45pm, Yechury, amid chants of "Comrade Sitaram Yechury Laley Lal, Lal Selam (Red salute to Sitaram Yechury)," made a dash for the microphone to finish his speech on time.
Carefully avoiding "Gorkhaland" the veteran Marxist harboured faith on the process of dialogue (read tripartite talks.) "Talks can resolve any crisis. Talks have to continue between the Centre, state and Gorkha representatives. We recommend a powerful autonomy under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution."
Incidentally, a memorandum of settlement (MOS) had been signed between the state, centre and GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh on December 6, 2005, for the Sixth Schedule status to the Darjeeling Hills.
A Bill had also been tabled in Parliament for the Sixth Schedule, which had then been sent to the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs. The standing committee had given a go-ahead after reassessing the ground realities. "The Bill hence has not been reintroduced. It depends on the outcome of the ongoing tripartite talks," said Yechury.
Yechury stated that the ongoing "unrest" had taken a toll on development, employment, and tourism - all trickling down to the economic stability of the region.
"National Highway 55, connecting the plains to Darjeeling, is the only highway in the country that has remained closed for nearly a year because of landslides. When this issue is raised in Parliament, the ministry of road transport and highways claims that this has happened because the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways runs along the NH55 and that the railways have failed to realign the tracks. Both the highways and railways are departments under the Centre, a pointer to their apathy towards the Hills," he said.
Commenting on the alleged bonhomie between Trinamool and GJM (despite GJM's unconditional support to Congress-Trinamool candidates in the plains, Mamata has been shying away stating that she has nothing to do with the Morcha), Yechury said, "It is very difficult to understand Mamata Banerjee. She was a railway minister in Vajpayee's government but claims that she had nothing to do with the NDA. She has everything to do with the GJM in the Hills but again nothing to do with them while in the plains."
Talking to reporters, Yechury said that he had never in his life witnessed a five-hour traffic jam in the Hills. When quizzed on whether it was a deliberate attempt by the Morcha to delay him, Yechury replied "If there is a conspiracy to stop me from coming to Darjeeling, then I definitely am an important person."