With just a month to go for municipal elections in four key municipalities in Darjeeling hills, the TMC — as part of its poll strategy — plans to question the GJM’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi supported their call for Gorkhaland. After meeting Modi in Delhi in March, GJM chief Bimal Gurung had categorically claimed that the Prime Minister had expressed the Centre’s “commitment” to start the process for forming Gorkhaland. This, the Trinamool Congress is convinced, is a bluff – one that they plan to call the opposition GJM out on.
“The GJM has claimed the PM supported them and their call for a separate state. But not only has there been nothing official or put down in writing, there is also no proof that the PMO agrees with what Gurung said. The Morcha is trying to cheat people,” said a TMC spokesperson. The Trinamool Congress has begun preparing for polls at Darjeeling, Mirik, Kalimpong and Kurseong on May 14. Meanwhile, for the GJM, the primary issue remains that of Gorkhaland.
The party had begun rallying around the emotive issue soon after they found their support base wavering. One of GJM’s seniormost leaders and chairman of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), Pradeep Pradhan, had joined the TMC even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee weakened support for Gurung and his party through the formation of various hill boards.
Previously, SEC AK Singh had said: “So far, there has not been any trouble in the hills. However, we are still apprehensive about the situation. Central forces could be deployed, but before that, I have to discuss the matter with the state government.” Others in the fray are the Jan Andolan Party (JAP), which will be contesting the elections alone, and Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) — who are likely to ally once again with TMC.
Speaking on the sidelines of the first general body meeting of the North Bengal Development Council, Harka Bahadur Chettri, president of JAP, told reporters: “We will go at it alone in the municipal elections. Our main rival is the GJM.” Darjeeling, Kurseong and Mirik municipalities in Darjeeling district, Kalimpong municipality in Kalimpong district, Raiganj in Uttar Dinajpur district, Domkal in Murshidabad and Pujali municipality in South-24 Parganas will tentatively go to polls on May 14.
The official notification for the elections will be released on April 17. The date of counting has been fixed as May 17, and the entire process will be completed by May 19.