Seeking to send a message that politics in Darjeeling Hills is in his control, Gorkha Janamukti Morcha founder Bimal Gurung on Thursday announced that 17 councillors of the local municipality, who had joined the BJP, have returned to the GJM and would work to ensure the win of the Trinamool Congress in the 2021 Assembly polls. Those 17 councillors of the Darjeeling Municipality joined the BJP in New Delhi in June last year, giving the saffron party a majority in the 32-member board. The incident took place after the saffron party won 18 of the state's 42 Lok Sabha seats, its best ever show in the state.
Gurung paraded the 17 people at a press conference in Kolkata, where they pledged support to the TMC in the assembly elections likely to be held in April-May next year. He accused the BJP of reneging on its promise given to the GJM and the people of the hills, who elected the saffron party's Lok Sabha candidates three times from Darjeeling.
Gurung, who had been in hiding for three years, resurfaced in Kolkata on October 21 and pledged support to the TMC, after having quit the NDA, triggering discontent in the GJMs Binoy Tamang faction which has been backing the Mamata Banerjee-led party. Justifying the reason behind leaving the NDA, Gurung said, "While the BJP never fulfilled its promise of development of the hills, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was never found to be wanting in fulfilling her assurances".
The GJM leader, against whom over 100 cases including those under the UAPA have been slapped for alleged acts of arson and violent attacks on policemen in the past years, said that he will teach the BJP a lesson in the polls in North Bengal. "I believe in Karma. I believe in assurances. In the coming days, we will do whatever is required to make the TMC emerge winner in the hills," he said adding that he wished to see Banerjee as the chief minister for the third time in 2021.
About recent comments by Tamang that he will not be part of any process with Gurung against whom many cases are pending, the GJM founder skirted the issue. "I have not come here to say anything about Binoy Tamang. He spoke his mind. I won't comment," he said.
The Tamang faction is now in power in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), an autonomous district council in the Darjeeling hills. The chief minister held a meeting with Tamang in Kolkata on Tuesday and he had expressed satisfaction over the outcome of the deliberation. Tamang, who has been opposed to the proposal of Gurung's return to the hills, had also said that the people of the Darjeeling do not want him back.
Rallies were taken out in the hills by the Tamang faction opposing Gurung's entry since October 22, prompting the fugitive leader's loyalists to organise counter-rallies welcoming him. Currently, Gurung is putting up in Kolkata along with his trusted aides. The picturesque Darjeeling had repeatedly witnessed violent agitation over the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, the latest being in June 2017, when the hills saw a 104-day-long strike, called by Gurung, over the issue.
The strike also led to a split in the GJM, with Tamang, once a deputy to the outfit's supremo Gurung, taking over the reins of the party and expelling the boss. Although the GJM faction led by Gurung had continued to align with the BJP, the other camp, headed by Tamang, joined hands with the ruling TMC in the state.