|Bimal Gurung and Mahendra P Lama
Darjeeling, March 19: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today expressed his willingness to “talk” to Mahendra P. Lama and seek his support for the BJP candidate for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.
When Lama, a former vice-chancellor of Sikkim University, had announced that he would contest as an Independent, Gurung and other Morcha leaders had refused to support him.
Today, Gurung wrote a post on Facebook that read: “I, want to appeal to all the Gorkhaland loving people to unite to the sake of Gorkhaland. I would like to specially appeal to Dr Mahendra P. Lama to come out in support of BJP for the sake of the greater cause. Let us set aside all difference and not let go this golden opportunity. I am ready to talk to Dr Lama for the sake of Gorkhaland.”
Contacted, Lama said he had not seen the post and would not comment on it.
Gurung further posted: “This year’s Lok Sabha election is now clearly divided between those who are supporting Gorkhaland and those who are against the demand.”
Hoping that the BJP would come to power, the Morcha chief wrote: “This election is not about local issues but about our long standing demand of Gorkhaland. The BJP is expected to come to power and they have already decided to support our cause. This is a golden opportunity as a government which is set to come in power is supporting our long cherished demand.”
The Morcha chief’s move comes at a time the Trinamul Congress is trying to get GNLF’s support for its candidate Bhaichung Bhutia.
Lama and his foundation, Darjeeling Dooars United Development Foundation, has been campaigning since September last year and has held over 100 public meetings across the hills so far.
The academician is from Darjeeling and well known in the field of education. He is in favour of a “separate state” although he has not given any name to the proposed state. Lama always said the hill leaders had failed to raise the statehood issue at the right time and at the right place. It is seen as a reason for the Morcha’s refusal to support Lama.
Asked about his reaction, Lama today said: “I am in a remote area in Kalimpong now. I have heard about it (Gurung’s post). But since I have not seen it, I would not be able to comment.”
On February 27, Gurung had said: “In 2007 (when the Morcha was formed), I had asked Mahendra P. Lama to support us. He said he was always with us but could not come out and support us as he was with the government (serving as the vice-chancellor of Sikkim University). When our activists were killed during the Gorkhaland agitation (2008-11), he never expressed his condolences.”
P. Arjun, a member of Morcha’s study forum, was suspended from the hill party for supporting Lama.
Gurung’s willingness to talk to Lama was made public on a day GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh returned to Darjeeling for the first time since 2011.
Observers said with Trinamul trying to seek Ghisingh’s support, the Morcha wants to ensure that the hill votes are not divided. “Lama has found considerable support among hill people and the Morcha seems to be eager not to divide the votes further as the hill party is more or less confident that Ghisingh will be supporting Trinamul,” said an observer.
Recently, Gurung had even said Ghisingh would back Mamata Banerjee. “Ghisingh had already dropped the demand of Gorkhaland and Mamata Banerjee will never support the demand of Gorkhaland. It is certain that they will come to the hills together,” Gurung had said.