EOI, DARJEELING , 26 Feb 2017: Ahead of the municipality elections in the hills, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung will set up camp in Kalimpong district in a bid to save the party that has come under severe assault from the Trinamool Congress and other local parties. The date of the civic polls though, is yet to be announced.
Gurung is expected to leave Darjeeling for Kalimpong on Monday evening. “I will be going to Kalimpong tomorrow and stay there for two to two and a half months for the civic body elections. I will return to Darjeeling after winning the election in Kalimpong,” he said with confidence.
The terms of the four municipalities in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik expired in December 2016, but the state government is yet to announce fresh polls, although they are expected to take place in April-May. At present, the four civic bodies are being run by state government appointed administrators.
On February 14, when chief minister Mamata Banerjee declared the formation of the new district of Kalimpong, the GJM president had challenged the state government to announce elections to the four hill civic bodies asserting he would camp in Kalimpong and emerge victorious.
The formation of development boards (15 at present) for the hill communities, upgrading Kalimpong sub-division into a district and voices of dissent have put the GJM on the backfoot of late.
However, Gurung is confident that the people of Kalimpong will vote for the GJM as the issue of a separate state is paramount to them. “People now have become politically conscious and they know the rights and wrongs that are happening. They won't be swayed by doles. They will not forget their jati’ (community) and ‘asmita’ (aspirations) easily,” he said.
In last year's assembly election, the GJM’s vote share in Kalimpong nosedived by nearly 50 percent, owing to the TMC, Jan Andolan Party (JAP) and Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), tie-up. The situation was similar in Darjeeling and Kurseong.
With elections to the civic bodies, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and panchayats due, Gurung has embarked on an inauguration and foundation stone-laying spree in the region. Today, he inaugurated three community halls in upper, lower and middle Lepcha Busty in Tukvar, 16km from Darjeeling town. The buildings have been completed at a cost of Rs94.92 lakh.
“Lepcha Busty and its surrounding areas have remained deprived of development for long. The area has seen a lot of political unrest but things are changing now as people are becoming better educated. I want the area to prosper and develop. We have several tourism projects lined up,” Gurung said, adding Rs4 crore would be earmarked for various projects to be taken up in the 32 wards under Darjeeling municipality, and Rs4-4.50 crore to Kalimpong.
The GJM chief also laid foundation stones for another three community halls in Barnesberg today. On Saturday, he laid the foundation for a community hall at Happy Valley tea estate. Further, a Union minister is expected to be invited to inaugurate a car park near Kakjhora, and the Ramakrishna Siksha Parishad, a model school funded by the central government.