India

Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung, TMC’s new ally, holds first rally in Darjeeling

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s (GJM) founder-president Bimal Gurung held his first public meeting in Bengal’s Darjeeling town on Sunday afternoon and announced that he will help the Trinamool Congress (TMC) win at least 18 assembly seats in north Bengal when elections in the state are held next year.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat thrice since 2009 with support from the GJM and other parties demanding creation of a separate state since it promised to find a permanent political solution to the hill issue and accord scheduled tribe status to 11 Gorkha communities.

“I have joined hands with chief minister Mamata Banerjee. We will win 17 to 18 assembly seats in north Bengal. The BJP betrayed the Gorkhas and wasted our 12 years,” Gurung said at the meeting. He said Banerjee has assured him that she will find a permanent political solution to the Gorkhaland issue.

There are six assembly seats in the Darjeeling hills, of which the TMC holds one while the BJP has none. The CPI (M) has one seat, the GJM has two while the remaining two are in the control of the Congress. The Gorkha community has presence in the adjoining districts in the plains as well. The two GJM legislators from Darjeeling offered support to the BJP after the 2016 assembly polls but Gurung has now withdrawn his support.

Gurung went into hiding in 2017 after being charged under the anti-terror law by the Mamata Banerjee government for the violent Gorkhaland movement. He appeared before the media in Kolkata in October and announced that he was shifting his allegiance to Banerjee.

Since then, the rivalry between Gurung and Binoy Tamang, his former lieutenant who has been heading a pro-TMC faction of the GJM since 2017, has intensified.

Though Tamang and his men are opposed to Gurung’s entry into Darjeeling, the erstwhile fugitive leader was received with a warm welcome on Sunday. Gurung told his followers that he will start calling the shots in hill politics very soon.

Without directly naming Tamang and his associate Anit Thapa, chairman of the board of administrators in Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), Gurung said, “They cannot deliver anything despite all the support they have.”

Since the TMC failed to wrest the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat from the BJP in 2019 despite having the support of Tamang and Thapa, Gurung targeted the duo.

“Why should they be supported (by the TMC)?” he said.

“The two must leave within 10 to 12 days,” Gurung said. Local people said Gurung hinted that he wants Tamang and Thapa to step down from the GTA.

Gurung returned to Siliguri town on December 6 and addressed a rally.

He was waiting for the right time to visit Darjeeling.

Political equations in the Darjeeling hills suddenly changed after Gurung pledged support to the TMC.

“The BJP should be defeated at any cost and I will ensure that keeping the chief minister in front of us,” Gurung said on Sunday.

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