Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha workers on Tuesday raised the demand for Gorkhaland at a government programme here in the presence of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who firmly ruled it out, warning that she could be both "rough and tough".
"Please remember this is not a party programme, this is a government programme. I am very rough and tough on such issues," a visibly angry Banerjee said with GJM President Bimal Gurung sitting beside her on the dais as GJM workers shouted slogans and held up posters for Gorkhaland.
"You are free to give political slogans at party programmes, but this is a government programme and such slogans cannot be raised here," Banerjee said.
"Please do not give a wrong message so that people think Darjeeling again has a problem," Banerjee said.
"Let us remain together, Darjeeling is part of Bengal and we will remain together," she emphasised. Referring to the previous Left Front government's alleged failure to ensure development in Darjeeling and failure of the then chief minister visiting the hills, Banerjee said, "If Darjeeling remains peaceful, development work will continue and employment will be generated."
Gurung, the Chief Executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Authority, told a press conference later "I also want Gorkhaland. But our relations with the West Bengal government will remain cordial."
Stating that he disapproved of GJM workers raising Gorkhaland slogans when the chief minister stated that Darjeeling was an inseparable part of the state, he said the GJM workers were angry as Telengana was likely to be declared a separate state and the hill party's demand went back 105 years.
Stating that GJM elected members were to hand over a memorandum to the Chief Minister, but could not do so as she left for a programme near Kalimpong, Gurung criticised the district magistrate, Soumitra Mohan, who is the principal secretary of GTA for not informing him about her programmes.
Asked if he was considering to resign from the GTA because of delay in transfer of authority to the hill council by the state government, he said he would consider it at an appropriate time.
Opposition parties decried the GJM for raising the Gorkhaland demand before the chief minister, with the CPI(M) accusing the Trinamool Congress of having created a 'Frankenstein'.
"We had repeatedly told her during signing of the agreement for the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration that the chief minister has created a Frankenstein in the GJM over which she will not have any control," Leader of the Opposition Surjyakanta Mishra belonging to the CPI(M) said. WBPCC President Pradip Bhattacharya said the demand for a separate state could not be accepted and suggested that all political parties and the Centre look for a permanent solution to the Darjeeling problem within the constitutional framework.
Congress leader and Union Minister Deepa Dasmunshi said, "Mere scolding will not serve to bring a permanent solution to the hill problem. The sentiment of the people in the hills should be honoured while finding a permanent solution."