“Go slow” was the prescription by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) President Bimal Gurung for his party supporters on the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA- an autonomous administrative body) election issue. A GJM delegation led by Gurung will be meeting Union home minister P Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi on the June 26 followed by a meeting with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata.
Based on the outcome of these meetings the GJM will take a stand on the GTA election and future agitation programmes. However, in a meeting with party supporters in Darjeeling town on Sunday, there were ample feelers on GJM’s “yes” to GTA elections.
With the Justice Shyamal Sen committee recommending the inclusion of 5 mouzas (3 from the Darjeeling plains and 2 from the Jalpaiguri district) in the GTA while the GJM had demanded for inclusion of 396 mouzas of the plains in the GTA, the GJM was quick to switch onto agitation mode. They had announced a series of agitation programmes including a 72 hour strike, resignation by the 4 GJM MLAs (Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Kalchini) along with the Councillors of the four Hill Municipalities.
A meeting between the state government and a 21-member GJM delegation in Kolkata on June 16 managed to defuse the situation with the state forming the Fact Verification Committee to review the inclusion of mouzas from the plains in the GTA. Morcha then decided to announce their future political programmes (including the fate of the scheduled agitation programmes) on June 24 in Darjeeling.
“Holding GTA election is the government’s prerogative. Whether we will participate or not rests with us. We will announce this only after our meeting with Union home minister P Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi. After returning back I will have a one to one meeting with chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata. Only after these meetings will we decide whether to participate in the GTA election or not. Our scheduled agitation programme will also depend on the outcome of these meetings. If the meetings fail, I will continue with the agitation” stated Gurung addressing party supporters from the Hills, Terai and Dooars at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Rink.
A 5-member GJM delegation led by Gurung and comprising MLA Rohit Sharma, study forum members Amar Singh Rai and Ram Bhujel along with Pemba Tshering Ola will be departing for Delhi on Monday.
Doing the balancing act, Gurung did not fail to send home the message that the GJM has already given serious thought to participation in the elections. “If the government agrees to nominate 5 members to the GTA Sabha from Terai and Dooars, we might just participate in the GTA elections” stated Gurung.
Incidentally, the GTA Sabha will comprise 45 elected members and 5 nominated members. Nominating people from Terai and Dooars would manage to pacify disgruntlement in the GJM rank and file in Terai and Dooars feel political observers.
Gurung said that in the meeting with Chidambaram and Mukherjee, the GJM delegation would press upon the “injustice and humiliation” meted out by the Shyamal Sen Committee recommendations and would also seek Central intervention to right the wrong.
“After we return from Delhi, I will have a one to one discussion with CM Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata. We have to carefully scrutinize the Fact Verification Committee and whether it will be able to deliver. Justice Shyamal Sen Committee was an eyewash. It was partial and reflected the Government’s decision. The Fact Verification Committee also comprises of State Government officials. We don’t want a rerun” retorted Gurung.
The GJM President stated that only after these meetings, the GJM would detail the party supporters and seek their opinion regarding GTA elections. “Only after this will we make public our decision on GTA elections and future agitation programmes” assured Gurung.
The GJM Chief was clearly annoyed at the front rung leaders of the Terai Dooars Joint Action Coordination Committee (a GJM- Adivasi conglomerate demanding the inclusion of 396 mouzas of Terai and Dooars in the GTA) staying away from today’s meeting. “They keep calling me and stating that we should not take part in GTA elections. However they are taking things too lightly and have made it a habit to stay away from vital meetings. They too should be serious and abstain from all forms of elections in the Terai and Dooars including Panchayat elections” retorted Gurung.
Gurung further assured that points (for or against elections) raised in Sunday’s meeting would be deliberated upon in a Central Committee meeting following the Delhi and Kolkata meeting, prior to any decision. “We believe in collective decision and don’t want to impose anything on our supporters,” claimed Gurung.