A Hamro Party councillor of Darjeeling municipality, Sudha Lama, joined Anit Thapa’s Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) on Tuesday.
The move comes as a relief to the BGPM-Trinamul civic board in Darjeeling hanging in uncertainty following a call for the disqualification of a BGPM councillor.
Lama, elected from ward 10 from the Hamro Party, became the seventh councillor of Ajoy Edwards’s party to join the BGPM.
While the defection of six earlier councillors helped the BGPM-Trinamul alliance topple the Hamro Party board in January this year, the seventh defection is expected to help keep the alliance board afloat.
Uncertainty had gripped the Darjeeling board within two months of the formation of the new board after a revelation that a BGPM councillor was dismissed from government service for alleged fraud of over Rs 1 crore.
Hamro Party in the Opposition cited the West Bengal Municipal Election Act, 1994, to claim that any councillor “dismissed” from government service over corruption charges cannot contest a civic election for five years. It said this dismissal was not cited by BGPM councillor Usha Rai of ward 15 when she filed her nomination for the 2022 civic poll, and sought her removal.
Until Tuesday’s development, the strength of the BGPM-TMC alliance stood at 16 and Hamro Party and Bimal Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha together was 15. The majority mark in the 32-ward Darjeeling municipality is 16 as one seat is vacant.
“There was much uncertainty as disqualification of BGPM councillor would have meant the board would have remained tied with 15 councillors each. However, Lama’s joining the BGPM has tilted the scales back in favour of the BGPM-Trinamul alliance,” said an observer.
So now, the BGPM-Trinamul combine has 17 councillors and the Opposition 14.
Even if Rai is removed as a councillor, the ruling combine will still have a majority with 16 councillors.
Anit Thapa, the BGPM president and the chief executive of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), sounded confident of more councillors from the Opposition joining his party.
“Our family will grow and more councillors and elected GTA Sabha members from the Opposition camp will join us soon,” said Thapa.
The Hamro Party recently released an audio clip of the present chairman DipenThakuri, a BGPM leader, allegedly horsetrading. Thakuriwas with the Hamro Party before he defected with five others to the BGPM.
The Hamro Party said these defections would not dilute the party’s vision.
“Defection from our party does not mean our party’s vision will be diluted or we will lose focus,” said Robert Chhetri, party vice-president.