Bringing down the curtain on all speculations, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) announced that they would be contesting in all 45 seats in the first Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) elections. The GJM also suspended all agitation programmes and lifted the ongoing relay hunger strike in Darjeeling town.
The announcement was made after a four hour long GJM central committee meeting at Patleybash on the fringes of Darjeeling town on Saturday. “We have decided to contest in all 45 seats. However the candidates will be decided by GJM President Bimal Gurung” stated Roshan Giri, General Secretary, GJM at a press meet in Darjeeling.
When quizzed on whether Gurung would take part in the fray, Giri stated “This has not been decided yet. We will hold a series of meetings from Sunday to decide on the 45 candidates.”
Incidentally the cat and mouse game on whether to contest elections has been on for quite some time. The GJM has been protesting the Justice Shyamal Sen’s recommendation of inclusion of 5 mouzas of the plains in the GTA (3 in the plains of Darjeeling district and 2 in the Jalpaiguri District.)
The GJM is demanding the inclusion of 396 mouzas of the plains of Terai and Dooars in the GTA. The Morcha had earlier announced a series of agitation programmes protesting the recommendations and had also threatened to stay away from the GTA election slated for July 29.
A meeting between the State Government and a 21 member GJM delegation in Kolkata on June 16 managed to defuse the situation to an extent, with the State forming the Fact Verification Committee to review the addition of mouzas from the plains in the GTA.
Finally Gurung leading a 5 member GJM delegation embarked on a political tour, meeting Union home minister P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata. The GJM had stated that the Morcha’s decision to contest elections would depend on the outcome of these meetings. All the meetings ended on a “successful” note for the Morcha.
In the meeting with Banerjee in Kolkata on June 28, Gurung had expressed full faith on the Fact Verification Committee and had stated that the GJM was eager to continue cordial relationship with the Trinamool Congress.
There have been numerous pointers to Morcha’s decision to take part in the GTA elections. While on one hand the Morcha repeatedly announced that they would take the decision on GTA elections in the Central Committee meeting on June 30 in Darjeeling; the GJM had written a letter to the West Bengal home secretary, through the District Magistrate (DM) on June 28 requesting for the “Sun” as their election symbol. They had even attended an all party meeting on GTA elections called by the DM on June 29 at the District Collectorate in Darjeeling.
“We are contesting elections for the overall development of the Darjeeling Hills. Even the Terai Dooars Joint Action Coordination Committee (TDJACC) leaders from Terai and Dooars were present in the Central Committee meeting today and requested us to contest the GTA elections” added Giri.
The TDJACC (a Morcha- Adivasi conglomerate was formed with the demand of the inclusion of 396 mouzas of Terai and Dooars in the GTA.) Recently there were reports of discontent brewing in the rank and file of the TDJACC with a section demanding that the GJM should stay away from GTA elections till the territory issue is resolved. GJM played this down projecting the presence of all frontal leaders of the TDJACC in Saturday’s meet including President John Barla.
With the GJM’s participation confirmed, political observers feel that the future of Hill politics would depend on what stand the Trinamool Congress adopt (whether they stay away from GTA elections or contest seriously.) The TMC is slated to sit in a meeting on Sunday in Siliguri to decide on GTA elections. With GNLF leaders, disgruntled GJM leaders and supporters finding TMC as a strong platform to counter the GJM might, the TMC has emerged as a major threat for the GJM . Recently the TMC has been making steady inroads in the Hills, opening up Hill units. The enthusiastic TMC leaders and supporters are eager to contest the GTA elections. However Observers feel that the TMC top brass might provide a “safe passage” to the GJM by not contesting elections.
“We will suspend all agitation programmes including the ongoing relay hunger strike which is on at the Darjeeling Chowrasta protesting the Justice Sen recommendations” stated Giri.