Gurung, BJP leaders lie low as pre-poll situation heats up in north Bengal


Kolkata, June 20 : Bimal Gurung and his Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party-Gorkha National Liberation Front (BJP-GNLF) alliance are lying low ahead of the crucial Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) polls scheduled in the Hills of north Bengal on June 26 and allowing leaders like Ajoy Edwards of the Hamro Party take Centrestage. Both GJM and BJP-GNLF have boycotted the elections. Hamro Party, founded by Edwards, a former GNLF leader, had won elections to the Darjeeling Municipality earlier this year. Till recently, his main attention was towards development of the Hills and rooting out corruption. After fielding candidates for all 45 seats of the GTA, he has begun speaking on the long term aspirations of the Hills people for a separate Gorkhaland. With the GJM and BJP-GNLF combine out of the fray, at least officially, Edwards main contenders are the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) headed by Anit Thapa and the Trinamool Congress. The Trinamool Congress has fielded former GJM leader Binay Tamang as a candidate from the Bloomfield-Rishehaat Constituency. Tamang quit the GJM and joined the Trinamool Congress a few months ago. Thapa, who was also a prominent GJM leader during the 2017 agitation launched by Bimal Gurung, quit the party and set up the BGPM. Edwards seems to have realised that the elections to the GTA is a different ballgame altogether as compared to the polls for the Darjeeling Municipality. "Edwards has now realised that the GTA elections will not help satiate the demands of the people in the Hills. While talking of a peaceful solution to the Gorkhaland issue, he has blamed both Tamang and Thapa for derailing the 2017 agitation. By itself, this is a big victory for the GJM. This statement makes it clear that the agitation in 2017 was a valid one. He has also called the Trinamool Congress and the BGPM an alliance. After all, he will also have to contend against several candidates who were leaders of the GJM and BJP-GNLF combine, who are contesting the GTA polls as Independents," a political observer in Darjeeling said. Thapa, meanwhile, has also promised voters that he will make Gorkhaland a part of the main agenda in the first meeting of the GTA, if elected. This just goes to show that the call for a separate state of Gorkhaland is by no means dead or buried. After all, Darjeeling was no part of Bengal, at least till 1809, when the progress of the Nepalese Army was stopped by the forces of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Sugauli. The Nepalese Army then had to concede territory resulting in Shimla and Darjeeling remaining in British India. This, however, didn't mean that Darjeeling was to become a district of West Bengal. The West Bengal government seems to have realised that the GTA elections may not be peaceful. The West Bengal State Election Commision has declared all booths sensetive while the administration has ordered more armed forces to take charge. Under such circumstances, the situation in the Hills has turned tense and the last of the tourists are returning a bit disappointed. /IANS


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