Now or Never For 'King' Bimal Gurung to Get Mamata Out of the Hills
Realising that he is caught between the BJP-TMC slugfest, Gurung has now declared a “fight till death” to retain power in the Hills.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (L) and GJM chief Bimal Gurung (R). (Photo: Reuters/ Getty Images)
Kolkata: For Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung, it’s now or never.
His call for an indefinite strike in the Hills from Monday — to retain his fiefdom — is going to be a litmus test for his Gorkhaland movement.
However, a rift within the GJM and an apparent loss of trust in him as the face of the Gorkhaland movement has left Gurung worried. The same was evident when he proclaimed himself as the ‘Chief Minister of Hills’ in a direct challenge to Mamata Banerjee.
Gurung’s hopes rest with the BJP with which his party has been associated since 2009 but differences over a separate Gorkhaland remain. While the state unit of the BJP does not want a separate state to be carved out of Bengal, the central leadership has been dangling the proverbial carrot since the tenure of former Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh’s tenure. It continued with the election of SS Ahluwalia with GJM support in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP has been maintaining a safe distance from current turmoil in Darjeeling —Ahluwalia is yet to weigh in on the recent violence in the Hills over the alleged imposition of Bengali language in schools as well as for a separate Gorkhaland.
Realising that he is caught between the BJP-TMC slugfest, Gurung has now declared a “fight till death” to retain power in the Hills. “There will be an indefinite shutdown in the Hills. The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices, banks and government offices will be closed from Monday. The banks will open twice a week for public transactions. The indefinite strike will not be applicable to schools, colleges, transport services and hotels. I will fight for a separate Gorkhaland till death,” he said.
People in his party, however, have accused him of losing the plot. “Recently, he said he will quit the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). Now, he says he is the chief of GTA and, therefore, the ‘Chief Minister of the Hills’. He is behaving like a king. Party workers are now confused on how to take this movement forward logically. Bandhs and strikes are not going to achieve anything. This will send a bad message,” a senior GJM leader told News18.com.
Gurung’s desperate attempt to remain in the hot seat has forced the state government to mull a strategy. “We have information that they misused GTA funds. They cannot escape now,” a Trinamool Congress leader said.
Sources said Mamata will try to “expose” Gurung through a special audit.
In the last six years, Rs 3,925 crore has been sanctioned to the GTA for the development of the Hills. There are allegations that these funds were misused by GTA officials.
“We need to dent his image. People in the Hills are very simple. They don’t like someone imposing anything on them. Therefore, the best way is to expose their leaders. The people in the Hills should know that the money given to them for water, sanitation, education and healthcare was misused by leaders for whom they hit the streets and risk their lives,” a state Cabinet minister said, adding that if the situation goes out of control on Monday, Gurung would be arrested.
Mamata has already hinted that she will handle the issue strategically. There is a possibility that she may try to convince some GJM leaders to join the TMC. “There may be a few bad apples, but most are good,” she had said at a press conference.
Citing a High Court’s ruling which declared bandhs as illegal, her government is planning to make Monday’s strike unsuccessful.
A large contingent of police force will be on stand-by in Darjeeling on Sunday evening. Special vehicles will be provided to state government employees and bank officials. Police are also likely to make some preventive arrests on Sunday.
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