Bimal Gurung, the once-dominant leader of Darjeeling hills, plans to hold a public meeting at Darjeeling Motor Stand on October 7 for the first time after six years in an apparent comeback bid in hill politics.
Gurung and his party, the Gorkha Jannmukti Morcha, were in complete control of the hills from 2007 to 2017.
“We will hold a public meeting at Darjeeling Motor Stand on our (party) foundation day. We will be holding an event at the motor stand after 2016,” said Roshan Giri, Morcha general secretary, over the phone from Vellore.
The Darjeeling Motor Stand area is a relatively large area. Not many hill parties dare to hold a public meeting in this area for fear of lack of footfall.
Gurung was on the run for three-and-a-half years after he launched the Gorkhaland agitation with a 104-day general strike in 2017. Despite being on the run, he was still controlling the politics of Darjeeling hills until he decided to join hands with the Trinamul in 2020.
Gurung managed to return to Darjeeling in 2020 but in the 2021 Bengal Assembly election his party candidates came third in the elections after the BJP and his rivals, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Binay Tamang faction).
Gurung also went silent on the Gorkhaland issue.
In 2021, addressing the foundation day function in Darjeeling, Gurung said: "You might be thinking that Bimal Gurung will talk about Gorkhaland again (to win the masses). I will not. I will not talk today.”
He had argued that the Gorkhaland talk would only help other hill politicians.
"When I talk (about Gorkhaland), another will stay in the chair. For their benefit, they will use my talk, my courage. Why should leaders benefit? The public should benefit,” Gurung had said.
The Morcha leader was perhaps alluding to 2017 during which time his party colleagues, Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa, formed a new faction of the Morcha when Gurung was on the run. They developed close ties with the state government and got nominated to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.
Of late, Gurung has distanced himself from Trinamul.
"It is, however, not yet clear if Gurung will try to raise the Gorkhaland issue in full throttle on October 7,” said an observer.
Leaders of his party, however, attended a meeting in Darjeeling on Monday where the Gorkhaland issue was discussed.
“We will hold a citizens’ convention on October 14 to take forward this issue,” said Arun Ghatani, the central committee leader of the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM).
The CPRM had supported the BJP during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Apart from Gurung’s party, representatives of Ajoy Edwards' Hamro Party were also present in the meeting.