Sikkim and Darjeeling Hills, despite the ethnic similarities they bear, have been unwilling to rapprochement for any sort of political unification. In recent years Sikkim moved up in status as a tourism destination and Darjeeling fell out of chart due to Gorkhaland related political controversies that keep brewing every next day. Of late Sikkimese have viewed the Hills with empathy but nevertheless consider them to be in a disadvantageous position vis a vis themselves. But things could change and they might change sooner than later, if West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could pull in another Switzerland dream in Sikkim’s vicinity i.e. Darjeeling Hills.
The signs are here. After nearly two decades a West Bengal CM reached Kalimpong on Thursday evening on a tour which would been unforeseen just a year ago when CPI (M) was in power. Though Mamata is visiting the Hills for mainly political purpose given the fact that Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been warning the govt. to form the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration at the earliest.
But there is another side to Mamata’s visit: West Bengal’s first lady CM’s scouting for niches which could turn the Hills into a tourist hotspot. To make it specific, the Lady wants to develop Darjeeling into Switzerland.
To her great joy, Mamata was greeted by huge gathering on her way to Kalimpong. Mamata, the seasoned politicians that she is, got off her car to interact with the people, praise the scenic spots and click a few with her ipad. Mamata also held a meeting with tourism officials accompanying her on this trip. North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb and tourism secretary Raghavendra Singh were also accompanying her.
Kalimpong News reported that at 9th Mile Mamata asked the driver to stop.
Stepping out of the vehicle, she took pictures on her iPad. “Why don’t you build cottages here? This is such a beautiful place. Many people can come and stay here,” Mamata told the tourism secretary. “I have taken some pictures. I will send them to you. Please see what can be done here,” she said before leaving.
Mamata earlier told a gathering in Darjeeling on Thursday that her master plan to convert the hills into Switzerland was underway.
Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling has himself said many a times about his dream to make Sikkim, a Switzerland of India. But he has been politically dexterous enough to support the cause of Gorkhaland but not to let the agitation spill over and damage Sikkim’s tourism prospects. Now if Darjeeling harps on to the path of Sikkim’s tourism success, it would be a tale of two competing Switzerlands. Darjeeling with its British legacy has every potential to prove to be a worthy competitor to Sikkim.