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Going After Gurung's Money May Help Mamata Buy Peace in the Hills

Sujit Nath |

Updated: June 16, 2017, 3:23 PM IST
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Going After Gurung's Money May Help Mamata Buy Peace in the Hills
Party insiders claim the state government has instructed top police officers to look for concrete evidence against Gurung.
Kolkata: On a cool Thursday afternoon in Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee looked out the window of her office in Nabanna, clicked a picture of white clouds gauzing the bright blue sky, and posted it on Facebook.

Anyone who thought this indicated the West Bengal chief minister was in the mood for peace with those agitating against her government in the Darjeeling Hills, about 600 km away from her capital, got it entirely wrong. “Goonda Hatao, Pahar Bachao (Save the Hills from hooligans),” she roared hours later, unleashing the next course of action against GJM chief Bimal Gurung who is demanding a separate state.

Government Strategy to Take on GJM

Party insiders claim the state government has instructed top police officers to look for concrete evidence against Gurung. This is the reason that despite allegations of rioting, arson, seizure of cash, arms and bursting of crackers beyond permissible limit, Gurung is still a free man and not examined even once.

Party insiders said the government strategy is to look for concrete evidence against key GJM leaders, including Gurung, over alleged siphoning of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) funds for personal benefits – if any.

“The government will not take any decision in haste. We don’t want to examine him on petty charges so he gets bail. Instead of fighting them with an iron hand, the strategy is to expose trouble makers on corruption charges and keep the pressure on. If required, we will probe reports of Bimal Gurung’s investments in Nepal,” he said. “Preliminary GTA audit hinted at possible misuse of funds. People in the Hills should know the money allotted to GTA for their welfare was misused by GJM leaders.”

Even Mamata, in apparent reference to Gurung, said, “We should not compromise with our charitra (character). Respect is very important. Those who don’t follow this principle will be exposed.”

‘Go and Find Out The Wealth Bimal Gurung Has’

Adding to the Darjeeling unrest, Shanta Chhetri, Mamata Banerjee’s surprise pick for the upcoming Rajya Sabha election, said, “The GJM is trying to mislead people in the name of Gorkhaland. I would like to request you to come to my house and visit Bimal Gurung’s house, you will see the difference — how he is able to afford such a fancy lifestyle, what he does and where he got the money from. People in the Hills have every right to know the detailed expenses of more Rs 3,925 crore allocated to them from the Hill Affairs Department in last six years.”

“I am not going to judge who is right and who is wrong. We want peace in the Hills,” she said.

Shanta started her political career with the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) in 1994 when she was given the party ticket to contest municipal elections from Kurseong. In 2008, she was forced to leave Kurseong after GJM leaders allegedly attacked her house. On February 18, 2010, her house was set on fire by GJM’s students' wing.

Why Bimal Gurung is Feeling Uneasy And Left With Limited Options?

Recent political development in the Hills shows that the GJM is left with no other option but to bank on Darjeeling MP SS. Ahluwalia to convey their demand to the higher ranks. They don’t have any direct access to senior central leadership to press for their demand of a separate Gorkhaland.

“He can’t afford to break alliance with the BJP because it will cost him a lot politically. In the midst of a bitter standoff with the Bengal government, he can’t do anything alone in the Hills. He needs some support base to take his demand forward. We have to understand the BJP-GJM tie-up is a political alliance and not an ideological one,” BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu said.

A source in the GJM said, “In some of the recent meetings, Bimal Gurung expressed concern over the Centre’s delay in finalising a draft on Gorkhaland. But he was told by other party leaders to be calm as they have to trust the central government to achieve their target as they cannot afford to have too many enemies at one time.”

The Endless Political Wrangling

Going with the current political situation, the immediate solution seems to be a distant dream in the Hills. No one knows whether it will be resolved through referendum or by forming a separate state. But one thing is clear that beleaguered people in the Hills are not going see an immediate solution.

On Thursday night too, the GJM damaged a hydel power project in Rimbick and torched a primary health care unit. The next all-party meeting is on June 20 and it will be interesting to see what the united Hill parties decide on the Gorkhaland issue.
First Published: June 16, 2017, 3:23 PM IST
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