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Gurung threatens to quit GTA

Darjeeling, Feb. 4: Bimal Gurung today said he would soon resign from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Sabha, the council that runs the Darjeeling hills, so that he can devote himself fully to the statehood movement.

“I will resign from the GTA in a few days. The Sabha (the 45-member elected body formed under the GTA Act) will sit for a meeting after which I will resign so that I can be fully involved in the next phase of the Gorkhaland agitation,” Gurung told a party meeting at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club.

The declaration of intent adds to the headaches of the state government that has been at the receiving end in the hills since Mamata Banerjee raised sensitive issues during a meeting at Chowrastha and provoked a backlash.

Gurung referred to the chief minister’s speech last week. “She acted like Hitler. What does she mean by ‘rough and tough’? Many chief ministers have visited the hills but no one spoke like her in such a bitter tone. No Gorkha should tolerate such statements,” he said.

Government sources said they were trying to figure out if Gurung, who had initially said he would not head the GTA but did so later in deference to the “wishes of supporters”, would carry out the threat or whether the usual reluctance in one-leader parties to name successors would limit his options.

But Gorkha Janmukti Morcha sources said Gurung, who is the chief executive of the council, was determined to give up his GTA constituency of Tukvar, the village from where he hails.

The move is being seen as an attempt not just to prove his sincerity to the Gorkhaland cause but also to keep the wheels oiled for a renewed agitation if a Telangana state comes into being.

The resignation will help Gurung reassure his core constituency that he has not put personal privileges above the statehood movement. At the same time, the absence of any other leader matching Gurung’s clout will ensure that his writ would run in the council even if he is no longer the chief executive, Morcha sources said.

Gurung said: “Only I shall resign from the GTA. I will not ask the 45 elected members or even the chairman and the municipality commissioners to resign. From now on, no one should come to me for contract work but only for Gorkhaland.”

The steady stream of adverse news from Darjeeling is threatening to undermine the chief minister’s persistent efforts to showcase peace in the hills as one of her biggest achievements in power.

At a meeting in Calcutta today, Mamata showcased peace in Jungle Mahal but did not mention Darjeeling. It was not clear if the omission was a Freudian slip or just an oversight because of the sheer volume as Mamata pointed out: “At every meeting, I have to spend two to three hours on the achievements of the government.”

Gurung today said he had purposely decided not to sign the memorandum of agreement of the GTA. “The agreement was signed by the party’s general secretary Roshan Giri. It was for a reason I had not signed on that document,” he said. “It would have been binding on me.”

A Writers’ Buildings source said the government saw no reason to be apprehensive of Gurung’s “empty threats”.

“He (Gurung) stands only to lose, should he give up the post of chief executive. We don’t think he would do that. It will be extremely difficult for him to pick a successor,” said the source.

“As far as his logic of not being a signatory to the tripartite agreement is concerned, there is no legal or constitutional basis to it. Roshan Giri (the general secretary of the Morcha) signed the agreement as the authorised signatory of Gurung. Besides, not signing the agreement does not make it easier, or more difficult, for Gurung to pull out of the post,” the source added.

Senior minister Firhad Hakim said it was not up to the government alone to help preserve peace in the hills.

“The government has done everything possible to help the GTA. Preserving peace in the hills, in the presence of a functional GTA Sabha, is not the government’s responsibility alone. The Morcha-led Sabha must also do its bit,” Hakim said.

“What he (Gurung) wants to do with the post (chief executive) is up to him and his party,” the minister added.

Gurung called upon all rival parties in the hills to participate in an all-party meeting to be held at the Gymkhana Club on Thursday at 11am. “Each of these parties will have to agree to send 500 supporters for a dharna to Delhi. We will also send 500 supporters at our own cost.”

But he added: “I wonder whether some parties can mobilise more than 10 people.”

Pratap Khati, the general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, one of the Opposition parties of the hills said the ABGL, too, would set some conditions.

“They (the Morcha) must reject the MoA as the GTA is a stumbling block to Gorkhaland just like the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. We want not just Bimal Gurung but the entire 45 elected Sabha members, four MLAs and the MP to resign for the cause of Gorkhaland,” Khati said.

Gurung also requested the people of different sub-communities of Gorkhas not to get divided.