Bimal Gurung on Tuesday issued a video message urging people to join the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s foundation day celebrations to preserve “language, culture and art”, but the hill leader fell short of using words like “mato (land)” or “Gorkhaland”, which have been hallmarks of his long political career.
The foundation day celebration of the party falls on October 7.
This year, the date has assumed significance as Gurung, who once dominated the hill political landscape, is trying to hold a mega event in Darjeeling after six years.
“I appeal to everyone to join us at the foundation day to preserve the language, culture and art. We are organising our 16th foundation day after a long time and in a big way. Our language, culture, art, our history of the Dooars and the Terai are getting wiped out.... We need to do something,” said Gurung.
In the 5 minutes and 20 second video, Gurung used the words “language, culture and art” four times.
The only close resemblance to the demand of Gorkhaland was when Gurugng said: “We should all be united and express (our desire) in one voice. Darjeeling, the Terai and the Dooars are looking for this voice. We need to secure the future of our children.”
Gurung had dethroned Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader Subash Ghisingh from hill politics in 2008 with the Gorkhaland slogan. Ghisingh was batting for the inclusion of the area into the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution when Gurung countered him with the Gorkhaland slogan.
Ghisingh was in total control of hill politics from 1988 to 2007.
Even after accepting an autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in 2012, Gurung was always vocal on the Gorkhaland demand and shut the hills in 2013 for a month and again for 104 days in 2017 to voice it out.
“The video appeal is a clear indication that Gurung is not ready to jump the Gorkhaland bandwagon immediately and is looking at a revised strategy of first mobilising his support base. He probably also does not want to immediately take on the Bengal state government with the statehood issue before strengthening his support base,” said an observer of hill politics.
Since Gurung resurfaced in 2020, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has fared poorly in all Darjeeling elections. At the moment Anit Thapa of the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) is in control of the GTA, the panchayat and the municipal bodies.
Elections of the municipalities of Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik are due.