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20 Mar 2018

End of Bimal Gurung-era in Darjeeling Hills politics? The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief faces arrest even as his rivals have gained ground and have good relations with Mamata Banerjee, who has patched up with Sikkim CM, Pawan Chamling.

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung has demanded that Centre call a tripartite meeting, and asserted that he and his supporters “are not criminals, anti-nationals or terrorists”.Pramod Giri, HT, 19 March 2018:  The Supreme Court’s rejection of Bimal Gurung’s appeal against arrest, and West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee’s patch up with her Sikkim counterpart, Pawan Chamling, could spell the end of the Gorkhaland activist’s reign in Darjeeling politics, feel his rivals who are rising in the region.
In a last-ditch attempt, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief released a video on Saturday demanding that the Centre immediately call a tri-partite meeting, and asserted that he and his supporters “are not criminals, anti-nationals or terrorists”.
However, his appeal may not have much effect, as the BJP has little clout in the hills without him.
“After this order from the Supreme Court, the state has the right to arrest Gurung,” said Binoy Tamang, a former Gurung confidante who led a coup against him a few months ago and later took control of the larger faction of GJM.
Gurung, who ruled the hills unchallenged between 2011 and 2016, landed in trouble in June last year when he called for an indefinite strike demanding statehood for Gorkhaland and took the Mamata government head on.
Booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), he has been absconding since August 17 last year.
Tamang is presently acting as the chairman of the board of administrators in the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) — which was formed in 2012 following a movement led by Gurung, but which he abandoned last year when he faced arrest.
Banerjee’s patch up with Chamling, following a cold-war that continued for several months, comes as the biggest setback for Gurung, who has been using various parts of Sikkim to hide from the Bengal police.
Chamling had earlier expressed his support for the Gorkhaland movement, and even wrote a letter to the Union home minister Rajnath Singh, advocating the creation of Gorkhaland, giving Gurung’s movement a new fillip.
Even though Union minister Surinder Singh Ahluwalia of the BJP is the Darjeeling MP, the party ruling the Centre has little influence in the region.
Other parties in the hills, except for the Gurung-led faction of GJM, are critical of the BJP.
“Gurung was acting like a pawn in the hands of the BJP since 2009,” said Neeraj Zimba, spokesperson of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF).
“BJP, due to its focus on the rest of Bengal, has completely forgotten its promise to the people of the hills. BJP does not care for the hills and has dumped its people,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, former GJM MLA who broke away from Gurung to launch his own Jan Andolan Party (JAP).
Significantly, all of Gurung’s rivals, including GNLF, JAP and the Tamang-led GJM have good relations with Mamata Banerjee.
Asok Bhattacharya, a former state minister and CPI(M) MLA from Siliguri, blamed Gurung for his downfall and the plight of the people of the hills.
“Had Gurung not gone out of the way to do some wrongs, the situation in the hills would have been different,” he said.

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