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Statehood & poll on Morcha list

- Party team’s Delhi trip on Feb 26

Darjeeling, Feb. 23: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today announced the team that would leave for Delhi on February 26 to meet political leaders of various parties to push for the creation of Gorkhaland but sources also said that the visit would likely shape the hill party’s decision on the Lok Sabha election.

The five-member Morcha delegation will be led by party general secretary Roshan Giri and include GTA executive Sabha member R.B. Bhujel, Darjeeling municipality chairman Amar Singh Rai, study forum member B.P. Sharma and journalist Swaraj Thapa.

“The team will leave on February 26 and will try to meet leaders of national parties such as the Congress, BJP and regional parties such as the BSP and the SP. The Telangana bill has proved that the state has no hand in creating a (new) state and whatever needs to be done has to be done by the Centre,” Giri said.

Sources said the Morcha hadn’t got appointments with any leader in Delhi till now.

Although the stated purpose of the Morcha team’s visit to Delhi is to discuss Gorkhaland, sources said meetings with various leaders in New Delhi could help the party devise its strategy for the Darjeeling seat for the Lok Sabha election.

“The Morcha’s plan on the coming Lok Sabha election is likely to be finalised after the team returns from Delhi,” said a Morcha source.

The source said the Morcha was mulling whether to field its own candidate or align with pro-statehood parties, foremost among them being the BJP.

“Even though the Morcha had supported BJP candidate Jaswant Singh in Darjeeling in the last Lok Sabha election, not much progress was made at the Centre with regard to Gorkhaland as the BJP did not come to power in Delhi. The Morcha might still tie up with the BJP as pre-poll surveys predicts the latter’s win in the elections,” said the source.

Within the Morcha, there is a buzz that New Delhi-based journalist Swaraj Thapa will be the party’s candidate for the Darjeeling seat.

Morcha president and GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung has been taking Thapa to all party events for the past two months, fuelling speculation about his candidature.

Academician Mahendra P. Lama has declared he will contest the election as an Independent from Darjeeling.

Supported by the Darjeeling Dooars United Development Foundation, Lama has already campaigned extensively across the hills. “So far, we have held 96 public meetings across the constituency, including remote areas like Todey-Tankta. The response has been good,” said Lama, a former vice-chancellor of Sikkim Central University.

The foundation today held a meeting at Monteviot ground in Kurseong also.

The CPM has decided to field Suman Pathak, a former Rajya Sabha member, as its candidate from Darjeeling, sources in the party said today.

The Morcha today cancelled its public meeting at Sukna on March 2.

“Since the Madhaymik examination will be taking place at that time, the administration cannot grant us permission to use mikes at the meeting. So we have decided to postpone the meeting till further notice,” Giri said.

The Morcha today held rallies in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Mirik, but didn’t use the public address system in the absence of permission from the administration in view of board exams.

The Morcha couldn’t hold a rally in Kurseong today as the authorities had already granted permission for Lama’s meeting at the Monteviot ground.