Bimal Gurung, the leader of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), a party that fights for statehood of Gorkhas within The Union of India, is set to meet TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee next week. Gurung is facing cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA for murder and arson since 2017 when the Mamata Banerjee-led government registered more than a hundred cases against him. Gurung has been evading the West Bengal government for the past three years and made a dramatic appearance in Kolkata only on October 21 to announce that he is ready to join hands with the TMC.
In what may seem to be a backstabbing of the Gorkha people of the Darjeeling hills, he is ready to ally with Mamata Banerjee who will never even consider the demand for their statehood. But, Tamang, along with Gorkha Territorial Administration chairman Anit Thapa, is set to meet Mamata Banerjee next week and is ready to pledge support to the TMC in North Bengal.
According to analysts and political observers, the deal between the two leaders was brokered by Prashant Kishor, who is looking after the campaign of TMC for the 2021 assembly election. “Gurung had been in talks with the TMC. The decision to finally bring him for an alliance with the TMC must have been taken after a survey was done by our team which showed that to dampen the BJP in North Bengal, the Bimal Gurung faction of the GJM had to either be brought into the TMC fold or stopped somehow. It appears that the senior management had strongly considered this and later discussed it with the Chief Minister,” reported The Sunday Guardian.
For decades, the Gorkhas of Darjeeling have supported BJP as the party agrees to their demand for statehood. BJP won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency for three consecutive times in 2009, 2014, and 2019 general election. In 2009, BJP candidate Jaswant Singh won from the constituency, and then in 2014, SS Ahluwalia of BJP defeated TMC’s Bhaichung Bhutia, and in 2019, BJP fielded a Gorkha from Manipur, Raju Bista, the managing director of Surya Roshni Limited, who won by a record margin.
Bimal Gurung, who has been the most wanted fugitive of the West Bengal government for the past three years, used to support BJP as the party stood with the Gorkhaland movement. Binay Tamang, another popular leader of GJM who leads a faction of the party, has organised a protest against Gurung, and his supporters vowed to not allow Gurung to enter in hills. “The people of the Hills don’t want him to return as it would mean days of strike and violence. They want peace,” Thapa, who is also a senior GJM leader of the Tamang faction, said.
The alliance with Mamata Banerjee is a political suicide by the leaders of Gorkhaland movement as the party has expressed reservations against the idea many times. In 2017, the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government brutally cracked down on the protest by the supporters of Gorkhaland and registered more than 100 cases against Gurung for leading the protest. Now Gurung is joining hands with the TMC to find political relevance as he feels threatened by the rising popularity of BJP and its leaders.
Darjeeling and surrounding areas have been administered by different parties throughout history. Until the 18th century, they were under the Kingdom of Sikkim. A Nepalese invasion meant that the whole area came under the control of Nepal, and after the Anglo-Nepalese War in which the Kingdom of Sikkim allied with the British East India Company, all these areas came under the control of the British.
In 1947 when India became independent, these areas became a part of the West Bengal state. In India, states have been largely formed on the basis of language or on the basis of culture.
Gorkhaland qualifies for statehood because it satisfies both these criteria. It is culturally different from the rest of West Bengal and the language spoken is primarily Nepali. The Union Home Ministry has already started meeting with bureaucrats of the state over statehood, but it seems Gurung is hell-bent to kill the momentum by allying with TMC which is vehemently against statehood.