TMC props BGPM at civic helm
The Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM), and its ally Trinamul, elected their chairman for Darjeeling municipality on Monday.
Dipen Thakuri, of ward 2, who along with five others switched from Hamro Party (HP) to the BGPM recently to trigger the change of guard at the civic body, was elected as the new civic chairman. Prativa Rai Tamang, a former civic chairperson of the BGPM, was elected the new vice-chairperson.
The meeting of 16 councillors had 14 from the BGPM and two from Trinamul, and was presided by Bishnu Malla, who had also defected from HP.
The opposition camp comprising 15 councillors of HP and Bimal Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha abstained from the meeting.
Until the Darjeeling civic fiasco, hill Opposition was a divided house.
Following developments around the Darjeeling municipality, which started in November, many opposition leaders came together on a common platform.
On the eve of the civic chairman elections, hill leaders Ajoy Edwards of HP, Bimal Gurung, Binay Tamang, Mahendra P. Lama, who is set to float a new political outfit along with former Rajya Sabha MP and CPM leader Saman Pathak, along with representatives of various “apolitical” organisations had come together for a public meeting on Gorkhaland.
BGPM president Anit Thapa dismissed the gathering. “The leaders who came together could not stand each other till the other day.... They have come together just to stop the BGPM,” said Thapa.
Recently, BJP MP Raju Bista also paid a “courtesy visit” to Gurung.
The development in the Darjeeling municipality is being seen as an important event by the BGPM in the context of hill politics, especially at a time when panchayat elections are scheduled in the hills in the next few months.
“It is an important victory for us. However, we must not be overexcited by victories and disheartened by defeats. We must win the hearts of the people through our work,” Thapa told his councillors after Monday’s elections.
BGPM and its ally are also in control of the hill body, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), and the party believes that the Darjeeling urban outcome would have a bearing in the coming rural elections.
The run-up to the change of guard at the municipality had been witness to some drama. HP had released videos of alleged bribe offers to their councillors by the BGPM. BGPM also released an audio clip of HP president Ajoy Edwards’s alleged willingness to cross-vote during this election.
HP, which had won the civic polls last year, had gone to court twice to stall the floor test and alleged that its bid to stop high-rises in Darjeeling town had led builders to form a syndicate to pull down the HP-led civic board. \
On Monday, Thapa did not clearly spell out the party's stand on high-rises but merely stated that a policy needs to be worked out. He asked the new civic chairman to release a report on whether water connections had been properly allocated by the previous board.
Edwards said they would act as a strong opposition now that “roles were reversed” and“keep an eye on illegal buildings and other activities”.