In a dramatic turn of events, the fugitive leader of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Bimal Gurung, on Wednesday evening appeared in public for the first time in three years and announced severing ties with the BJP-led NDA alleging that “the Central government failed to find a permanent political solution to the Darjeeling statehood demand”.
Speaking to mediapersons at a hurriedly called press conference at a hotel in Kolkata, the GJM leader pledged support to Trinamool Congress in the upcoming Assembly polls in West Bengal, saying that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee “does what she says”.
“I am no longer an ally of the BJP. The Central government, be it the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) or the Union Home Minister (Amit Shah), did not keep their commitment made to us. I was in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for our (statehood) cause, but they did nothing. Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, does what she says. In 2021, we will go all out to help her win the seats in the Darjeeling region,” said the GJM leader, who went into hiding in 2017 after violence erupted in the Hills over the statehood demand.
Statehood demand still hot potato for TMC
GJM’s alliance with the Trinamool Congress has upended the political calculation in the Hills ahead of next year’s Assembly elections in West Bengal. While Bimal Gurung's backing of the TMC is likely to come as a boost to Mamata Banerjee in the hill districts of north Bengal, and a possible setback for the BJP, the confusion of each party’s stand vis-a-vis the demand for Gorkhaland statehood could be a political minefield in an election year.
“We have been a part of the NDA since 2009, but the BJP-led dispensation hasn’t kept its promise of offering a permanent political solution for the Darjeeling Hills… It has not included 11 Gorkha communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes. We feel cheated, so we are walking out of the NDA today,” he added.
Darjeeling has witnessed several agitations for a separate state since the 1990s. The latest unrest took place in 2017 when the there was a 104-day strike with violent clashes. Gurung faces over 150 cases, including those under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for a grenade attack on a police station in Darjeeling district. He was suspected to have fled to neighbouring Nepal. But Gurung on Wednesday clarified that he was in Delhi.
With Gurung’s support, the BJP won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat three consecutive times.
The TMC welcomed GJM’s decision to quit the NDA and called the BJP “untrustworthy”. “We welcome Bimal Gurung’s commitment to peace & decision to withdraw support from NDA while reposing faith in Mamata Banerjee’s leadership.”
The BJP, however, denied that it had promised separate state to the GJM. “The BJP never promised a separate state to the GJM leader,” state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said.
The CPM, meanwhile, questioned the ruling Trinamool if it would accede to the GJM’s demand for a separate state.
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