April 16, 2021 10:42:15 pm
With both the factions of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha now supporting the ruling Trinamool in the Assembly polls, the BJP is banking on Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) president Mann Ghising to retain its hold in the Darjeeling hills.
Ghising is the son of the late Subhash Ghising, who founded the GNLF that spearheaded the movement for a separate Gorkhaland starting the 1980s. Ghising was also chairman of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) that preceded the semi-autonomous administrative body Gorkha Territorial Council (GTC).
The GNLF has been on the decline since Gurung, once Ghising’s protege, broke away from it and founded the GJM in 2007. Since then the politics in Darjeeling has been controlled by the GJM, which helped then ally BJP win the Darjeeling parliamentary constituency in 2009, 2014 and 2019. GJM candidates have won the last two Assembly polls, 2011 and 2016, from Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.
The Mamata Banerjee government was earlier seen to support the GNLF in the power tussle with the GJM. She had even brought Mann under her wing by making him the president of the Hill Area Development Committee, which was created after the 104-day shutdown in 2017 forced by the GJM, and giving him Minister of State status. The committee was seen as a counterweight to the GTA, controlled by the GJM. A year later, Mann, who had once claimed to be apolitical, had left the committee, saying it couldn’t fulfill Gorkha aspirations.
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In the 2021 polls, the BJP has fielded candidates in Kalimpong and Kurseong (Subha Pradhan and B.P. Bajgain, respectively) while backing GNLF leader Neeraj Zimba in Darjeeling. Zimba had won the seat on a BJP ticket in a bypoll in 2019.
On the strength of the lasting popularity of his father, Mann Ghising has drawn huge crowds at his poll rallies, where he demanded a “permanent political solution” for the people of the hills. However, even as Gurung claims that the BJP is on a mission to finish all regional parties, the BJP has been evasive on the issue. While it has promised to look into it once it forms a government in West Bengal, it is silent on what the contours of a permanent political solution would be. There has been no mention of Gorkhaland in its election rallies.
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