Gurung in Darjeeling on Tuesday. (Suman Tamang)
Darjeeling, Dec. 24: Bimal Gurung, today elected the chief executive of the GTA for the second time, said he had “started to realise” that people were more interested in work contracts than in Gorkhaland.
The Morcha chief, who had quit the GTA chief executive’s post in July-end to lead the statehood movement, said today: “I have returned to the GTA to bring about development in the hills. I have also started to realise that the people are now more interested in nala-jhora than in Gorkhaland.”
In Nepali, nala-jhora literally translates to drains and causeways, but the term is loosely used to mean small contract work.
Gurung had started feeling that people had moved away from the Gorkhaland cause, said hill sources who did not want to be named as they are not authorised to speak officially on party matters.
The GTA Sabha today convened a special meeting to elect the chief executive, the post lying vacant after Gurung resigned on July 30.
Gurung started to spearhead the Gorkhaland agitation following the Congress’s nod to the creation of Telangana.
The statehood agitation went on from end-July to mid-September. The timing of the protests — strikes lasting several days were routine in the hills then — caused a heavy setback to the tourism sector, one of the two economic mainstays in the hills. All of October, the peak Puja tourism season, hotel rooms in the hills were empty.
A trickle of Morcha workers also moved to Trinamul, compounding the hill party’s worries at a time development work had stopped for at least two months.
Trinamul has consistently spoken of bringing development to the hills. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly harped on the need for progress in the region.
Gurung today spoke about nurturing the tourism industry, which means stability and peace in the hills would have to be ensured if travellers are to visit Darjeeling. “We still have three-and-a-half years to develop the hills and we will focus on nurturing the tourism industry and also on creating employment opportunities for youths in the hills,” the GTA chief said today.
The Morcha has also realised that without the state government by its side, it would be tough to do development work in the hills.
Gurung also seems to have done a volte-face on tribal development boards after vociferously speaking against Mamata several times after she announced the Lepcha development board under the state government.
Gurung had wanted it to be set up under the purview of the GTA.
Of late, several tribal communities in the hills have demanded boards similar to the Lepchas. Gurung, too, has now said that the state should set up boards to develop and protect the culture of tribals in the hills.
Today, Binay Tamang, an executive Sabha member who had been elected the chief executive on September 27 but could not take oath within the stipulated timeframe of a month because he was in jail, proposed Gurung’s name.
“My proposal was seconded by Roshan Giri, an executive GTA Sabha member. Today, I told the house that a person should wear a shoe that fits his size. The shoe must neither be big nor small. I thought that the post of the GTA chief executive was too big for me,” Tamang, who got bail on December 21, said.
Gurung, Giri, Darjeeling civic chairman Amar Singh Rai and Kurseong municipality chairman Samardeep Blone left for Calcutta immediately after the election. Gurung will take oath in Calcutta on December 26 in Raj Bhavan at 2.30pm.
Of the 50 GTA members, 41 were at the special meeting. Seven members are in jail while Bhupendra Pradhan and Asha Gurung could not attend for personal reasons.