WITH THE municipal elections just months away, there is frantic political activity in the hills of Darjeeling district in West Bengal. Over the past week, workers have left the Trinamool Congress and rejoined the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). A portion of a workers’ union has decided to segregate itself from the GJM and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is believed to be considering replacing North Bengal Minister Rabindranath Ghosh with Tourism Minister Gautam Deb. Speaking to The Sunday Express, GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri Saturday said that 370 party workers, who had originally belonged to the GJM but had switched to the Trinamool, have now rejoined the GJM.
Watch What Else Is Making News:
“They had left the GJM a while ago and decided to join the Trinamool Congress. Having been there for several months, they are obviously disillusioned with the functioning of the party. So, they have now decided to join back. This is obviously a very good news for us,’’ said Giri.
Giri pointed out that one of the main incentives for the party workers to switch their affiliations a second time within a short span of months was the realisation that the “Trinamool would not fulfill their demand for a separate Gorkhaland.’’ “Gorkhaland is still an emotive issue and we believe that is the reason why the party workers came back,’’ said Giri, adding that while there is no fixed date for the municipal elections, they will possibly take place in May.
The municipal elections will be a testing ground for the TMC to see how large their support base in the hill district is at the moment. In the last Assembly elections, though the TMC did not win any seats, they had made significant inroads.
GJM supremo Bimal Gurung was reportedly miffed at the decreasing vote share of the party in Darjeeling district and had pulled up leaders and party workers alike. Whoever wins the municipal elections will also give the victor the advantage of being able to carry out development work in preparation for the panchayati raj elections in 2018 and the general elections in 2019.
Meanwhile, 850 members of the GJM-affiliated Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan (JAKS) decided to quit the organisation to form an independent union earlier this week. Giri said that the number was exaggerated and that not more than 300 workers had decided to leave.
“This is basically the Kalimpong unit of the Sangathan and not the entire organisation. They have told us that they will not be affiliated to any political party but will be working independently,’’said Giri.
There are a total of 5,000 workers in the Sangathan across Darjeeling. Incidentally, Kalimpong is the home constituency of former GJM spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri who had left the party ahead of the Assembly polls to form his own Jan Andolan Party. Chhetri was, at the time of the elections, backed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress.
The JAKS’s Kalimpong branch held a meeting under the leadership of its unit president, K C Rai, on Saturday and it was unanimously decided that about 850 members would quit the organisation on Sunday. “We have decided to form a new organisation called the Payband Karmachari Sangathan, GTA, Kalimpong District. For now, the new outfit will not be affiliated to any party and operate independently,” said Rai.
In the past two weeks, another group of about 100 JAKS members from Kalimpong had quit the organisation and said they would form a new outfit that would be affiliated to the TMC. The main demand of the GTA casual employees is regularisation of their jobs.
But, Chhetri, in the meanwhile, has distanced himself from the TMC, say insiders, because of the “way the North Bengal leaders of the TMC have been behaving.’’
Sensing the confusion on the ground and the mishandling of the North Bengal politics, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is believed to be considering replacing North Bengal Minister Rabindranath Ghosh with Gautam Deb who is in-charge of the north Bengal development board.
“But the fact of the matter is that none of the TMC leaders understands the hill politics. There is only one leader in West Bengal who understands this, and that is Mamata Banerjee herself,’’ said a hill leader.