‘People often talk about covid and the lockdown, but here in Darjeeling we were already prepared for it. The 105-day strike in 2017 had already taught us what to do when such a situation arises.’ My friend told me with a wry smile as we sat in his shop in Chauk Bazar, Darjeeling discussing the impact of the corona virus on a town whose economy is, to a large extent, dependent on tourism. Throughout the period of my fieldwork in the two eastern Himalayan towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong I was repeatedly told about the impact on everyday life of a 105-day strike called between June 2017 and September 2017 demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland. The demand for Gorkhaland (creating a separate unit within India comprising the Nepali-speaking regions of West Bengal) is not new. It has a long and complex history which has its roots in colonial state-making endeavours in the Himalayas. However, after the agitation of 2017 which ended in apparent failure, I sensed a visible shift in the political discourse in the region. Leaders of the major political parties spoke about the need to ‘co-operate’ with the state of West Bengal in order to usher in ‘development’ for the region, and citizens expressed a deep sense of mistrust and weariness towards political leadership making any grand claims. Infrastructural development became a key issue and people began to demand more accountability and better governance from their local leaders as well, something which was not always the case over the last four decades. Based on my doctoral fieldwork of more than a year in the region, I take seriously the events of 2017 as a historical point of departure. Rather than making the claim that Gorkhaland is no longer important or that people or political parties no longer want statehood, through this paper I wish to engage with the following questions: What are the multiple lives and meanings of the ‘state’ in a region which has been historically and geographically marginalised? How do infrastructure and governance become ways of reconfiguring relationships between local populations and their local representatives through discourses of accountability, which do not seem to have a historical precedence in the region? How are regional political elites and leaders compelled to re-invent their political imaginaries when they can no longer rely on the emotional and political capital that a desire for a homeland presents, because of their own apparent failures? What are the multiple sites of ‘politics’ in Darjeeling and Kalimpong that cannot be captured by a singular focus on statehood? Through these questions this paper will contribute to debates around state-making, political culture and questions of governance in the eastern Himalayan region.