Two rival Gorkha parties announced Tuesday that they will form an alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and will throw their weight behind the BJP candidate for the Darjeeling parliamentary constituency.
The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and Bimal Gurung’s faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) formed a hasty alliance after leaders of both parties met senior BJP leaders in New Delhi. Click for more election news
The GNLF and smaller Gorkha parties in the Darjeeling Hills were to earlier field their own candidate from Darjeeling, and would receive the “unconditional support and backing” of the Congress-CPM alliance. But with the Congress-CPM alliance crumbling in West Bengal, the GNLF has stitched a tenuous alliance with Bimal Gurung.
“We have met senior BJP leaders like Kailash Vijayvargiya. Yes, this was not our earlier position, but the urgent need of the moment is to restore democracy in Darjeeling. Other political parties are not allowed to hold events or even meetings This is the situation under the TMC. So for us right now the immediate need is to put up a front against the TMC,” GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba said.
Over the past few months, the demand for a candidate who is local, or a “bhoomiputra”, has gained traction amongst the people of the Darjeeling Hills. After the violent Gorkhaland agitations in 2017, in which 11 people died in clashes between pro-Gorkhaland agitators and the West Bengal police, public sentiment was squarely against the Mamata Banerjee government.
However, BJP MP S S Ahluawalia’s popularity has also waned. “He did not visit the hills even once during or after the agitation. The people felt betrayed at that point by the BJP. So yes, the public sentiment is still set against him,” said Zimba.
Meanwhile, the political winds are slowly sifting back in favour of the TMC. The GJM Bimal Gurung faction made overtures to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, appealing to Banerjee to hold talks. Banerjee, however, has not responded.