Citing extortion by Trinamool, tea garden workers join GJM

As 450 families of tea garden workers from Bijonbari and Singla region in Darjeeling today left the Trinamool Congress to join the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the latter’s president, Bimal Gurung, took the opportunity to level the ruling party as the “most corrupt I have ever seen” even as he termed “torture and extortion by the TMC” as reasons behind the workers’ switch-over.

Ranjit Alley, TMC’s Bijonbari block secretary, joined as Morcha’s central committee member, alleging “TMC leaders have constantly extorted money. For getting a government job, the villagers were asked to deposit Rs 4 lakh at party office. To get ration cards, too, they had to pay money. We believed in (CM) Mamata Banerjee and therefore repeatedly requested North Bengal Development Minister (Gautam Deb) to remove tainted TMC leader Nirmal Singh. But no action was taken. For the sake of people in my area, I have joined the Morcha”.

Similarly, other members who joined the Morcha claimed they have been extorted by local TMC leaders.

TMC district president Chawng Bhutia, however, said: “We have been informed that some of our men have joined Morcha and have slapped allegations against our party. We will inquire into the matter.” After attending a meet at GJM office, Gurung said: “TMC is a corrupt party. I have seen many political parties in my political career. But I have never seen such a (corrupt) party.”

Reacting to Gurung’s comment, Deb said: “Mamata Banerjee is symbol of honesty and her integrity is beyond doubt. She and her party do not need Gurung’s certificate. We are not giving any importance to Gurung and his party now. They have lost ground in the hills. We are considering filing a defamation case against him.”

He added: “For how many years has Gurung been in politics? How many parties has he seen? And he dared to say TMC is corrupt. We will appoint auditors to audit the GTA and we will see how transparent Gurung is.”

On TMC leaders and villagers joining the Morcha, Deb said: “We are not worried about them. Gurung has succeeded in buying some. But he cannot buy all of them.”

Significantly, Deb and TMC Darjeeling candidate, footballer Baichung Bhutia, held a meeting recently in Bijonbari and Singla, respectively.