Top News

Oh Darjeeling, what do you do now?

Friday, Oct 23, 2020 10:30 [IST]

Last Update: Friday, Oct 23, 2020 04:56 [IST]

Oh Darjeeling, what do you do now?

SUDIPTA CHANDA
SILIGURI:
Just when you thought Durga Puja would be a listless affair this year, came the spark, courtesy, Bimal Gurung.
In perhaps the most significant political development for West Bengal, the so long fugitive Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader, Gurung, surfaced in Kolkata on Wednesday and announced he was snapping ties with the BJP.
The alternative? He intends to ally with the Trinamool for the 2021 Assembly elections in the state and give a fitting reply to the BJP.
Now, an alliance is not a one-way street. Consensus is required between two or more sides for an alliance.
The Trinamool is yet to comment on Gurung’s decision. An alliance in this event is only possible if the Trinamool agrees to it.
So, the alliance angle is so far monophonic unless of course the Trinamool has already agreed to the proposal tacitly.
If the alliance is struck, the central question then is, what about the lawsuits against Gurung and some of his top associates? Would the cases now be brushed under the carpet or hang fire?
Gurung of course has claimed he is neither a criminal nor is he seditious. But, he does not mind getting arrested for the cause he champions.
If that is so, why did he not surrender in 2017 when the cases were lodged against him following the hill unrest? That would have saved three valuable years of his political life and that of a number of his aides.
If the Trinamool, and we are speculating here, has also expressed eagerness to ally with Gurung for the 2021 Assembly elections, it is a clear indication that poll prospect for the Trinamool is tight in 2021.
Gurung and his party hold major sway in the three hill Assembly segments of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. They also enjoy substantial support in at least seven more segments in the Dooars and Terai, including Siliguri.
If the alliance happens, that vote bank could shift en bloc to Trinamool or its alliance partner.
That indicates that the Trinamool needs all the support it can muster from any quarter it can manage if it has to sail through next year’s Assembly elections.
Now the palace intrigue. What happens to Binay Tamang and his followers in case the Gurung-Trinamool alliance comes through?
The one time brother-in-arms Gurung and Tamang fell out over the 2017 hill stir. While Gurung, chased by the law, went underground, Tamang found succour in the state government’s arms.
Since then, Tamang and his loyalists have been enjoying undisputed authority in the hills.
If the Trinamool now allies with Gurung to traverse the election bridge, Tamang’s authority becomes wobbly.
That could send the Tamang team on the sulk unless of course overtures between the Gurung and Tamang camps are already underway.
Now the mother of all questions as far as politics in the Darjeeling hills is concerned.
Gurung’s stated disappointment against the BJP is that it did not lift a finger for the Gorkhaland cause.
So, and again by Gurung, he would support whichever party supports the Gorkhaland cause in the 2024 General elections.
That cannot be the Trinamool. And why just the Trinamool, no political party which is not essentially hill-centric would ever support the separate state demand.
Too much is at stake here and no political party which aspires to govern the state would sacrifice 291 of the 294 Assembly segments in the taking for three seats in the hills.
So, Gurung might have to look elsewhere again come 2024. And, who is the first to admit so? Well, Gurung himself.
“There are no foes or friends in politics,” was his parting shot at Wednesday’s presser.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi