(From left) Trilok Dewan, Rohit Sharma and Harka Bahadur Chhetri at Gymkhana Club Hall in Darjeeling on Thursday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, March 24: Bimal Gurung has decided to go it alone in the polls — banking on the Gorkhaland card and demanding that his three hill candidates sign a bond promising to resign as legislators or go on fast in front of the Assembly whenever the statehood agitation demands it.
The Morcha has fielded Trilok Dewan from Darjeeling, Rohit Sharma from Kurseong and Harka Bahadur Chhetri from Kalimpong.
The announcement of the names was preceded by a lot of histrionics at the Gymkhana Club Hall. The Morcha chief at first asked the 4,000-odd supporters whether the party should field its own candidate or support some other party.
“I have said the Morcha was not born for election politics. Nevertheless, after 40 months of agitation, we are bound by compulsions and are in a difficult phase. I do not want to take a single-handed decision and will want to hear all opinions,” he told the audience.
He first called for a voice vote and with the overwhelming majority wanting the party to field its own candidate, the Morcha chief asked them to raise their hands if they supported the idea.
However, before rattling off the names of the three candidates, Gurung said: “Whoever is the candidate, he must sign a bond stating that he would withdraw or resign at any moment. The bond must also state that they will be willing to sit on a hunger strike in front of the Assembly.
“This is the people’s movement and the people’s voice should always be respected,” he told the candidates.
While Darjeeling candidate Dewan is a 65-year-old retired chief secretary of Andhra Pradesh, Sharma is an associate professor of Kurseong College. Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri, 53, is a well-known academician in Kalimpong from where he is contesting.
Dewan, who belongs to the 1969 IAS batch, also fought the 1971-Bangladesh war as a Captain with the 11 Gorkha Rifles. Although not a Morcha central committee member, Dewan is part of the party’s Study Forum and was a participant in all tripartite meetings between the state, Centre and the Morcha.
Sharma, a member of the Morcha’s central committee, entered politics only after the party was formed in 2007. Chhetri, a doctorate holder in botany and the party spokesperson, is the most well known political face and is currently a science teacher at St George’s School in Pedong, Kalimpong.
“Earlier, we had no weapons to fight the state government. We will now have a weapon to fight the government on the floor of the Assembly,” said Chhetri. The Morcha spokesperson was also the general secretary of the ABGL in 2004, when Madan Tamang was the party president. He was also a well known face of the support group of the Bhutanese refugees.
The Morcha sounded confident of victory. “We must vote en masse to send a clear message about our Gorkhaland demand. I will request even the chief minister of Sikkim to grant two days leave to people from the Darjeeling hills who are currently working in the state so that they can come over to vote,” said Gurung.
Police seized around 1000 litres of foreign liquor from the house of Dawa Lama, the treasurer of the Morcha, and recovered 17 khukuris from alleged Gorkhaland Personnel cadres last night.
Lama, who owns a liquor off-shop in town, is absconding.
Darjeeling police chief D.P. Singh said: “Yesterday Dawa Lama was seen with some people who had warrants pending against them. We asked him to bring these people to the police station but he did not co-operate. ”
He has been booked under the Bengal Excise Act.