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With BGPM set to wrest Darjeeling Municipality, Anit Thapa takes centre stage in hills politics

GTA head Thapa’s Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha is poised to take over Darjeeling civic body with TMC support following defection of ruling Hamro Party’s five councillors

In dramatic political developments in West Bengal’s Darjeeling hills, Anit Thapa-led Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) is set to take over the Darjeeling Municipality with the backing of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) as five councillors of the ruling Hamro Party have defected to the BGPM, which is now claiming majority in the civic body.

Former Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Anit Thapa is currently the chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

Both BGPM and Hamro Party are fledgling outfits in Darjeeling politics. The Hamro Party, founded by Ajoy Edwards in November 2021, won the Darjeeling Municipality polls held in February this year by bagging 18 of the total 32 seats. The BGPM, formed in September 2021, won nine seats with the Bimal Gurung-led GJM and the TMC, which rules Bengal, winning three and two seats respectively.

With the BGPM’s tally now rising to 14 following the Hamro Party councillors’ defection, the TMC has expressed its support to the former. The BGPM has claimed that one more Hamro Party councillor is going to switch to the party, which would take it to the majority mark of 17 with the TMC’s support.

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Barely five months ago, the BGPM had clinched the GTA polls, winning 26 out of the total 45 seats, with the Humro Party coming second by winning eight seats while Independent candidates, backed by the BGPM, winning six seats. The GJM boycotted the GTA polls while the TMC won five seats.

With the emergence of Thapa as a key face in North Bengal hills, the question doing the rounds in state political circles is whether the BGPM has now replaced the GJM or the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) as the principal player in Darjeeling politics.

The Subhash Ghising-founded GNLF, which led a movement for a separate Gorkhaland state between 1986 and 1988 during the Left Front regime, had later won the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) elections.

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The GTA was formed as the result of a tripartite agreement between the Centre, the Mamata Banerjee-led Bengal government and the GJM on July 18, 2011. Seen as the answer to a long-drawn demand by Gorkhas for self-rule in Darjeeling, the body’s mandate was to usher in development for Bengal’s hill areas. In the previous GTA election held in July 2012, the GJM had won all 45 seats following which its leader Bimal Gurung, who was once a close aide of Ghising, became its chairman.

A businessman, Thapa took a plunge into politics after launching a campaign to mobilise people in support of a singer from Darjeeling, Prashant Tamang, for a TV reality show contest in 2007. The same year Gurung rebelled against the GNLF and floated the GJM. Thapa joined hands with Gurung, who faced a rebellion within his party in 2017 amid renewed Gorkhaland protests. Subsequently, Thapa and another GJM leader Binoy Tamang went on to lead another faction of the party.

When Gurung returned to active politics in 2020 in the run-up to the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections, he suspended both Thapa and Tamang from the GJM for “anti-party” activities. Tamang joined the TMC while Thapa then floated his own party BGPM.

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Thapa has said, “My first target is to bring a system in Darjeeling which is similar to rest of Bengal. Obviously, we have a strong demand for a separate Ghorkhaland state. We will pursue it through dialogue.”

A senior TMC leader from North Bengal said, “Anit Thapa is neither Subhash Ghising nor Gurung. He wants to develop Darjeeling. TMC chief Mamata Banerjee also wants that. We are helping him for development of Darjeeling.”

First published on: 26-11-2022 at 12:35 IST
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