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Bhutia calls, Gurung snubs

Bimal Gurung and Bhaichung Bhutia

Darjeeling, March 9: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang today said Bhaichung Bhutia called up hill party chief Bimal Gurung in Delhi last night seeking his endorsement to his Trinamul candidature but was turned down.

A source in the hills said the Morcha was giving out the information about Bhaichung’s phone call targeting the hill Trinamul, which does not want any tie-up with the Morcha for the election.

Bhaichung today confirmed that he had made a phone call to Gurung and that the talk “did not come to the logical conclusion”. He said he spoke to Gurung because party seniors wanted to speak to the hill leader.

“Bhaichung Bhutia called up our party president around 10.10 last night and they spoke for around five to seven minutes,” said Tamang, who is in Delhi with Gurung.

Tamang said Bhaichung sought Morcha’s support for the Darjeeling seat. “He told our president that it would be very difficult to win the Darjeeling seat without his support,” Tamang, who is a GTA Sabha member, said.

Gurung reportedly said Trinamul had fielded Bhaichung without consulting the Morcha. “Moreover, our party president also pointed out that Trinamul cadres in the hills had posed a challenge to win the seat without the Morcha’s support and in such a situation it would be difficult for the Morcha to support Bhaichung’s candidature,” Tamang, the Morcha assistant secretary, said.

The hill source said: “Back-door negotiations between politicians are common during election time, but the Morcha seems to be purposely leaking this to further antagonise the hill Trinamul leadership.”

On Friday, Trinamul district committee vice-president Rajen Tamang, popularly known as Appa Rajen, had loudly protested at a news conference in Darjeeling when Bhaichung had suggested he would like to seek the Morcha’s support.

The source said: “Such a disclosure is expected to help the Morcha.” Rajen Tamang today said that the Morcha was unnecessarily making an issue of the call.

Trinamul sources said Bhaichung has decided to meet Rajen Tamang in Darjeeling on Tuesday. Observers believe that Bhaichung is expected to smoothen ruffled feathers.

Bhaichung said he had called up Gurung a “day after my name was announced by the TMC”.

“My seniors in the party wanted to talk with Gurung for the alliance following which the call was made. The talk did not come to the logical conclusion.” Asked which leaders the Morcha team spoke to in Delhi, Binay Tamang said: “We will inform the media only when there is some concrete announcement to make.”