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Gurung has mountain to climb

A long and winding road lies ahead for Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung and the separate statehood agitation he is spearheading, reports Amitava Banerjee.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2008 00:38 IST
Amitava Banerjee

A long and winding road lies ahead for Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung and the separate statehood agitation he is spearheading. The biggest challenge would be to counter the CPI(M), which boasts of a strong organisational structure, strength and strategies.

Political observers feel that the Gorkhaland demand can reach places only if the hill people (read political parties) unite. Though the goal remains the same, there is a lack of unity among the various political parties in the hills, while the rest of Bengal remains by and large united against the Gorkhaland demand. Time and again attempts to unite the parties to launch a common programme under a collective leadership have failed.

Another major factor is the organisational weakness of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is yet to shape up as a fully organised party. The party being top-heavy (with a heavily numbered central committee and branch committees yet to be formed), keeping track of the large cadre base and controlling them is a Herculean task.

Formed on the October 7, 2007 the GJM has grown at a rapid pace, defying all laws of expansion. Starting in Darjeeling, the GJM could successfully manage to expand in all four corners of the Hills and even eat into the CPI(M) base in the Terai and Dooars regions.

Though they successfully managed to encash the anti-Ghising and anti-GNLF sentiments in the Hills and the resentment against the ruling CPI(M) among a section in the plains, they were unable to channelise it in an organised manner. Then there is always the fear of infiltrations within the party to sabotage the movement.

With anti-GNLF sentiments reaching near-bursting point and the advent of Bimal Gurung as a bold leader who could make Ghising taste his own medicine, soon spiralled up Bimal’s popularity graph.

More than Gorkhaland, the initial part of the movement which took the shape of a mass movement, the ousting of Ghising became an immediate priority. The litmus test emerged after Ghising was cast aside on March 10. Whether Gurung can live up to the more than century old Gorkhaland dream is the big question.

Gurung, having promised time and again that a separate state would be formed by 2010, has left himself and his party very little space to negotiate. Having consolidated his Hill empire, Gurung turned his focus on the plains — mainly Siliguri, Dooars and the Terai.

With a huge demographic change, getting a people’s consensus in the plains would be a difficult task. The GJM thus tied up with the Kamtapur Progressive Party (KPP) and the Greater Cooch Bihar Democratic Party. This was again not appreciated by certain hill parties such as the All India Gorkha League, which advised the GJM to first strengthen the home front a united movement among the hill parties. The KPP had also lost some credibility in the Hills as it had earlier dubbed the Gorkhas as outsiders.

The Gorkha pockets in the Terai and Dooars having been let down by Ghising who did not live up to his commitment of including the Terai and Dooars when the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was formed in 1988 — readily joined the fresh Gorkhaland movement, putting everything at stake, which the GJM has to consider while taking any decision.

The challenges are far too many for Gurung and his GJM to tackle single-handedly. Time and again the party has shown lapses in coordination and signs of losing control over its huge cadre base.

The present political equation in Delhi is also a cause of concern for the Gorkhaland demand. A UPA Government surviving on the mercy of the Left Front cannot take any independent decision on the Gorkhaland issue.

With parliamentary elections round the corner, the CPI(M) has emerged as a stiff opponent with control over the state machinery.