Senior leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, including party president Bimal Gurung and general secretary Roshan Giri, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday. In the meeting, also attended by Darjeeling MP and Union MoS S S Ahluwalia, the delegation appealed to the Prime Minister to consider the formation of a separate Gorkhaland.
Speaking to The Indian Express, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said: “Our main purpose in visiting the Prime Minister was to present our demand for a separate Gorkhaland to him. We have requested the Prime Minister to set up a committee to consider the demand, and he has assured us that he will.’’ Giri added that the delegation placed two more demands before Modi — the inclusion of 11 tribes in the Scheduled Tribes list, and the setting up of Darjeeling’s first central university.
“The inclusion of 11 tribes from Darjeeling and Dooars in the Scheduled Tribes list is something the Prime Minister himself had talked about in his rallies at Siliguri and Dooars ahead of Assembly elections last year. He told us today that he has already set up a committee to see how this can be expedited. He has assured us he will personally look at all the three demands we have placed before him,” said Giri.
The meeting comes at a time when Darjeeling district is slated to head for municipal polls, likely on May 14. GJM insiders say the elections are crucial in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, as “whoever controls Darjeeling municipality has better chances of winning subsequent elections”.
The municipal elections will also act as a test for the GJM, sources said, after last year’s Assembly elections when TMC made major in-roads into the district. While the GJM retained all Assembly seats, their vote share had fallen to 68 per cent from the earlier 90 per cent.
The TMC has recently taken a hit in the Hills, with Kalimpong-based Jan Andolan Party chief Harka Bahadur Chhetri saying his party will not be in alliance with the TMC, but will contest the elections alone. Chhetri had launched his party a year before the 2016 elections, which he then fought with Trinamool backing. But, aides close to Chhetri say a rift between him and local Trinamool leaders prompted his decision.