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Bimal Gurung's new outfit, old demand

Formation of new committee Bharatiya Gorkhaland Sangharsha Samiti to spearhead demand
Bimal Gurung addresses the Gorkhaland National Delegation meeting in Kalimpong on Monday
Bimal Gurung addresses the Gorkhaland National Delegation meeting in Kalimpong on Monday

Vivek Chhetri   |   Darjeeling   |   Published 24.01.23, 03:58 AM

Bimal Gurung and his associates in Darjeeling politics announced a formation of a committee — the Bharatiya Gorkhaland Sangharsha Samiti — to once again spearhead the demand for the state of Gorkhaland.

Gurung, who had led the Gorkhaland agitation since 2007, had settled for an autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in 2011. Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the Bengal government and the Centre had signed a tripartite agreement agreeing to form the GTA in 2011, which Gurung headed until 2017. During this period, the Centre gave a special package of Rs 600 crore to the hill body.


On Monday, Gurung said his party was “withdrawing” as a signatory to the agreement.

“We will write to the Centre and Bengal stating that we are withdrawing from the agreement,” Gurung said.

Many in the hills wondered whether Gurung’s withdrawal from the tripartite agreement would make any impact in the state and Centre at this juncture when he has lost popular support.

The Morcha, which organised a seminar in Kalimpong on Monday announced the formation of the samiti to spearhead the statehood demand.

“A nine-member committee — there could be the addition of members in the committee, will submit its road map by February 5. We will chart out the next course of action,” said Gurung.

The committee is expected to include members of other “like-minded” hill parties seeking a separation from Bengal.

Ajoy Edwards, founder of Hamro Party, and other hill leaders like Binay Tamang and Rajen Mukhia, too, were in attendance at the Kalimpong seminar.

Many in the hills believe Gurung, who has presently lost political currency, is seeking to revive his career.

“Whenever Gurung has been pushed to the wall he has sought the support of all-party committees only to discard them when in power. The new samiti seems to be his latest trump card,” said an observer.

Edwards, Tamang and Mukhia, who were once critical of Gurung, too, seem to agree with the veteran hill leader’s game plan at the moment.

In fact, Edwards is seen as a catalyst behind bringing Gurung, Tamang and other hill leaders on a common platform after the Anit Thapa-led Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha poached on Hamro Party councillors to form the Darjeeling municipality board earlier this month.

“We wanted to be in the GTA, thinking that we could do much. However, it seems that the GTA is toothless,” said Edwards, the president of Hamro Party.

Edwards is a GTA Sabha member. His party has five other GTA Sabha members but the leader did not clarify if they would resign from the hill body given their criticism.

Observers said the “road map” that the samiti is scheduled to release next month would be a point of interest.

“It needs to be seen whether the committee can come up with an impactful road map,” said an observer.

Gurung, who in 2020 severed ties with the BJP to join hands with Trinamul, sounded sympathetic to the BJP on Monday.

“BJP MPs from Jaswant Singh to S.S. Ahluwalia to Raju Bista, seem to be doing their bit,” said Gurung.

While the call for Gorkhaland has always been an emotive issue in the hills, the impact of Gurung’s fresh attempt to make it his “comeback tool” remains to be tested at a time Bengal’s ruling Trinamul has found a foothold in the hills riding on the strength of the fledgling Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha formed by Anit Thapa.  

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