Gorkhaland issue rears head at hint of hill rural polls
Prominent political forces in the hills are renewing political activities, including those geared around Gorkhaland, to consolidate their support base, which observers feel is a warm-up exercise amid indications that panchayat elections might be held in the region after over two decades.
Recently, an instruction from the state election commission reached the district magistrates of Darjeeling and Kalimpong to take necessary steps to delimit the gram panchayat and panchayat samiti seats within the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) area, raising hopes of rural polls.
While some hill politicians are planning to flag the demand for Gorkhaland again — an issue always raised by political parties to draw support — others are planning to focus on development and simultaneously highlight their sincerity to work for the longstanding demand of the region for a separate state.
The Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which of late is subdued to an extent, has lined up a two-day long seminar on Gorkhaland this weekend.
“It (Gorkhaland) has always been the principal demand of our party and many political forces of the hills. The seminar has been convened to explore options as to how we can move ahead to achieve the aspiration of thousands of Gorkhas who live in India,” said a Morcha leader.
Gurung said they want to join hands and strive for the demand.
“We will carry out our movement democratically. Our party has good relations with the state government. The Centre should also consider our demand to confer ST status to 11 hill communities,” he told the media in Bagdogra on Tuesday.
The seminar will be held at the GDNS Hall in Darjeeling on September 10 and 11.
The Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM), headed by Anit Thapa, has taken a different approach on the issue.
Earlier this year, the party that Thapa floated in 2021, managed to move ahead of its contenders and secured a majority at the GTA elections.
The BGPM will celebrate its first anniversary on September 9 where Thapa and other prominent faces of his party will address party workers at a public meeting in Kurseong.
Unlike Gurung’s party, Thapa, who also heads the GTA, plans to work on the statehood issue differently.
“The issue of development has always been the priority of the BGPM unlike some other parties which have tried to use the statehood issue to reap political dividends. It (statehood) is the aspiration of an entire community and we should work for it. But simultaneously, the demand of the people for development in the region should also be given due importance,” said a party insider.
However, at the first meeting of the GTA Sabha, they would also pass a resolution that talks on the demand should be resumed with the state and Centre.
“The first meeting is likely to be held on September 19. Once the resolution is passed, we will forward it to the state to initiate a dialogue on it,” Thapa said.
Such plans show that the issue of statehood continues to remain in focus of political forces in the hills.
“If panchayat elections are held, like most previous polls, the parties will again rake up this issue,” said a veteran in hill politics.