Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung’s speculation of winning all 45 seats of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) saw the light of day with all 17 contested seats falling into the GJM kitty. Earlier the GJM had won 28 seats uncontested.
The GJM was on an agitation path for a separate state since 2007. After numerous rounds of tripartite talks between the Centre, State and the GJM, all three sides had signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the formation of the GTA on July 18, 2011.
Subsequently a GTA Bill was passed by the West Bengal Assembly on September 2, 2011. Following the Presidential Assent the West Bengal Act XX of 2011, The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Act, 2011 was first published in the Kolkata Gazette Extraordinary on March 12, 2012.
The first GTA election was largely a one sided affair with the GJM the only political party “seriously” in the fray. While the CPIM had withdrawn their candidates, the Trinamool (TMC) candidates were in the fray as a mere formality.
Despite 17 TMC candidates in the fray, Chief Mamata Banerjee had opted for a “political withdrawal” from the GTA elections on July 21 (regular withdrawal not possible after July 12- the last date of withdrawal.) Without campaigning TMC which had recently floated units in the Hills managed to bag 12249 votes out of the 156225 votes poled in the 17 constituencies. The GJM got a total of 143976 votes.
However all eyes were riveted on the outcome of the Gitdabling Nimbong constituency of Kalimpong. This constituency is the only constituency to have witnessed a triangular fight between GJM candidate Kalyan Dewan, Independent candidate (dissident GJM leader) Sanchabir Subba and TMC candidate Bruno Lepcha.
Subba despite being repeatedly asked to step down from the elections by Gurung and finally expelled from the party remained steadfast. He however lost by 677 votes. While Dewan bagged 4095 votes, Subba bagged 3418 votes. 264 votes fell into Lepcha’s kitty.
Except for Subba, all other opposition candidates (17 TMC candidates) forfeited their deposits. Bagging less than 1/6th of the total votes polled results in forfeit of deposit.
“I have scored a moral victory. I stuck to my principals. The people of my constituency had objected to the official GJM candidate being fielded from outside this constituency and had requested me to contest. I respected their feelings and contested. In many booths we did not have polling agents, others could have taken advantage of this.” stated Subba.
Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde will be attending the swearing in ceremony slated for August 4. The programme has been rescheduled to start at 10:25am at the Darjeeling Chowrasta. Earlier it was scheduled to start at 11am. West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will also be attending.
The first board meeting to select the GTA Chief will be held at the Gorkha Ranga Manch in Darjeeling on August 3 at 11am. Bimal Gurung is being projected as the Chief by the GJM. “We have not decided on the Deputy Chief and other port folios yet” stated Gurung.
While the oath of office for the GTA Chief will be administered by the West Bengal Governor, the others will be sworn in by the Principal Secretary, Home Department, Government of West Bengal.
The GTA comprises of 45 elected and 5 nominated members (to be nominated by the Governor.) The nominated list of names include 85 year old Birkhu Bhusal, Sabitri Rai, Tika Khati, Durga Kharel and Satish Theeng (All are TMC members.) While Bhushal and Rai are GJm supporters, Khati, Kharel and Theeng owe allegiance to the TMC.
The GJM camp switched on to celebration mode with the hills witnessing victory rallies.