A delegation of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), led by its president Mann Ghisingh, will arrive in Kolkata on Monday on the invitation of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, setting off speculations of a formal tie-up between the GNLF and Trinamool Congress.
With the team members likely to meet Mamata, sources hinted at a “formal announcement” of an alliance with GNLF’s continued support to the CM in all recent elections, beginning with the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
This fits with the CM’s plan to make inroads into the Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars regions of North Bengal where Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been foiling her attempts.
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“The Chief Minister continues to be very keen on making inroads into North Bengal. Apart from wanting to thank the GNLF for its support, we think she wants to look forward. It is possible that an alliance of all the non-GJM parties and factions in North Bengal will be discussed at the meeting. This will be especially crucial in light of the upcoming municipal elections in Darjeeling (November). Whoever controls Darjeeling town controls the districts. If the GJM does badly, then it will be a massive loss of face for them and will set grounds for the future elections,” said a TMC insider.
The GNLF had supported TMC candidate Bhaichung Bhutia in the 2014 general elections from Darjeeling.
Ahead of the 2016 assembly elections the GNLF and Harka Bahadur Chhetri of Jan Andolan Party had put their full weight behind the TMC candidates in the region. Although GJM nominee emerged victorious, the combined strength of TMC-GNLF-JAP dented its support base by nearly half, according to its own party leaders.
Despite the GNLF’s support and the strategic informal alliance, there has only between one meeting with Mamata between the 2014 and 2016 elections. “We may be looking at the possibility of a formal alliance now,” a source said.
Incidentally, the GNLF has maximum support in Darjeeling’s Kurseong area where the TMC polled the maximum votes even though it eventually lost to the GJM candidate.
“The Chief Minister never stopped working in the district. We have seen the presence of the state government in the Hills much more than we did during the time of the Left Front. Mamata kept her promise of carving a district out of Kalimpong, which has been a long standing demand. She has already set up two colleges in Kalimpong, which are operational, and has commissioned to setting up ITIs. We believe she will continue to make North Bengal a priority. The GJM, on the other hand, hasn’t even managed to do basic work like constructing much-needed roads,” said JAP president Chhetri, formerly the spokesperson for the Morcha.