Bimal Gurung starts ‘indefinite’ fast against Gorkhaland Territorial Administration polls
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung started an “indefinite hunger strike” in front of the party’s office at Singamari in Darjeeling from Wednesday, seeking the postponement of elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Sabha until the organisation’s certain demands were met.
Some see the hunger strike as a “jolt” to Mamata Banerjee’s plan to tackle the hill stalemate even though the final picture has not emerged as some parties are planning to approach court on the GTA polls.
Jalpaiguri divisional commissioner A.R Bardhan, who is the election authority of the GTA, had announced on Tuesday that the polls would be held on June 26 and a notification to the effect issued on May 27.
“We had submitted some suggestions to the Bengal government on May 9 as wanted by them (the state). But within an hour of submitting our proposal, the state government said polls to the GTA would be conducted,” said Gurung, whose Morcha is an ally of the ruling Trinamul Congress.
Hours after the submission of the proposals by the Morcha, word was out that the state government would hold elections to the GTA and the Siliguri Mahukama Parishad by June-end.
The following day, the state government appointed the divisional commissioner as the election authority for the GTA polls and the Darjeeling district magistrate as the returning officer.
The Morcha had demanded that all commitments made in the 2011 GTA memorandum of agreement be fulfilled and 396 mouzas in the Terai and the Dooars be brought under the hill body.
“The people of the Terai and the Dooars have been denied justice,” Gurung said from the venue of the fast.
A committee formed to look into the demand for the inclusion of the 396 mouzas in the jurisdiction of the GTA had only recommended that five of them be brought under the hill body. When the Morcha had been heading the GTA from 2012 to 2017, the party had not pursued the demand seriously.
Gurung on Wednesday said only people who “are greedy for chair and money” were currently in the GTA election race. The Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha, Hamro Party and Trinamul are not averse to contesting the GTA polls.
Gurung’s hunger strike has stirred some political activities in the hills but the move has not received an overwhelming support as in the past as many have highlighted the fact the fast is “not for Gorkhaland”.
Many have also opined that there should not be law and order problems during the current peak tourist season after long periods of economic stagnation.
The support base of the Morcha eroded following Gurung’s return to the hills after being on the run for three years since 2017. The Morcha fared poorly both in the Assembly elections in 2021 and the recent Darjeeling municipality polls.
Nevertheless, the newly formed Bharatiya Gorkha Suraksha Parishad has decided to hold a rally here on Thursday to protest the decision to hold the GTA elections.
Many observers believe the BJP and the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) will go to court seeking a stay on the GTA polls after the notification is issued.
Darjeeling BJP MP Raju Bista, who reached here on Wednesday, said: “We will explore all legal options right from the high court to the Supreme court. We will protest (the polls) in a peaceful and democratic manner.”