Gorkha Janmukti Mocha chief Bimal Gurung came in for scathing criticism from former vice-chancellor of Sikkim University, who is an Independent candidate in Darjeeling, Mahendra P Lama.
Responding to Gurung’s appeal to him to join hands with the GJM and support BJP candidate SS Ahluwalia in Darjeeling, Lama said the GJM chief has “sold out the Gorkhaland cause”. “Gurung sold out the Gorkhaland cause long time ago. He is exposed now. Which is why he wants to get support from me to make the BJP candidate win in Darjeeling,” Lama told The Indian Express.
While Gurung’s party has enjoyed a monopoly in the hill politics for the last six years, witnessing landslide victories in the three Assembly constituencies of Darjeeling in 2011, it now seems to be on a shaky ground with several strong candidates in the fray.
Even as the GJM has refused to accord any importance to TMC candidate and star footballer Baichung Bhutia, it party seems rattled with Lama’s influence.
Gurung has on Facebook appealed to Lama to join hands for the “cause” of Gorkhaland. “I would like to specially appeal to Dr Mahendra P. Lama to come out in support of BJP for the sake of the greater cause. Let us set aside all difference and not let go this golden opportunity. I am ready to talk to Dr Lama for the sake of Gorkhaland,” Gurung has posted on the social networking website.
Lama, however, said, “Bimal Gurung has no political ground in Darjeeling. When he realised that I will sweep the polls, he wants me to withdraw from the fray and support him. The people of Darjeeling are in favour of my candidature.”
Lama said he would hold a meeting with Gurung on three conditions: A written assurance from Gurung that the Morcha would support Lama’s candidature; withdrawal of support from the BJP; and it would fight for separate statehood and not settle down for any other arrangement.
“I will talk to him (Gurung) on separate statehood, on inclusion of Darjeeling in the north-eastern council, and on introducing three-tier panchayat system in Darjeeling,” added Lama. Lama has already held more then 100 public meetings in several remote and interior parts in the hills. Political observers said he has started an extensive campaign against Gurung in the region and the Morcha has reasons to be apprehensive about him.
Lama is at present the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. He authored the First Plan of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1989, First Sikkim Human Development Report in 2001; Nathu la Trade Report in 2005 and First Economic Survey of Sikkim in 2007.