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Gurung gesture to rival

- Morcha chief visits ailing Rai of CPRM
Bimal Gurung and RB Rai. File pictures

Darjeeling, April 20: Bimal Gurung today called on an ailing R.B. Rai, president of the CPRM, a party that had turned down the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s request to support BJP nominee S.S. Ahluwalia in Darjeeling and supported Independent candidate Mahendra P. Lama.

Gurung went to Rai’s house at Rangmook around 11am. He was not accompanied by any other Morcha leader.

The Morcha chief’s sudden visit to Rai is being seen as his move to improve political relations in the hills. Many fear the situation in the region could deteriorate after the election results are out, given that the Morcha’s supremacy is being challenged by other political formations such as the Trinamul-GNLF combine and CPRM which has backed Lama.

Gurung did not inform the media about his visit today. “Life moves on and there is a life beyond politics that’s why I met our Gorkha leader, Shri R.B. Rai, the CPRM supremo today on humanitarian grounds. He has not been keeping well for the last few months. I wish him speedy recovery and good health,” Gurung’s news release today read.

The Morcha had sought the CPRM’s support for Ahluwalia’s candidature but Rai’s party decided to support Lama citing the BJP’s lack of commitment on statehood.

In the past, the CPRM has critisised the Morcha often but during the recent statehood agitation in the hills, Rai’s party was a member of the Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee that was steering the movement.

Govind Chhetri, a CPRM spokesperson, welcomed Gurung’s move to visit the ailing leader today. “This is a positive step towards improving the political atmosphere in the hills. The CPRM has always wanted a change in the political culture of the hills where just not the leaders (of a party), but even the supporters do not see eye to eye,” he said. “The hills have had a tradition in which, the ruling parties have gone to the extent of socially boycotting rival party members. This is a good lesson for the next generation.”

Rai, 65, has been unwell for more than a month now. He is suffering from gout, high blood pressure and also has a high cholesterol level. The CPRM chief’s native place is Rangmook tea garden, 25km from here. But Rai mostly stays at the party office on Tamang Monastery Road in Darjeeling. Earlier, Ahluwalia had met Rai in the latter’s party office.

CPRM sources said Rai was shifted to his Rangmook residence about a fortnight back.