Will the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) be able to continue its winning spree in Bengal and register its first electoral victory in the hills that will go for the civic polls on May 14.
Since late eighties the four municipalities of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik in Darjeeling hills have always been ruled by local parties Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). Both have spearheaded movements for creation of separate state of Gorkhaland. Both the outfits still bank on the politics of a separate state.
The GJM that also runs the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) formed through tri-partite agreement between the GJM, Centre and the state government in July 2011 continues to be the strongest political force in the hills.
Though all polls held since 2009 including two Lok Sabha elections, two assembly elections and municipal elections were cakewalks for Bimal Gurung-led GJM, this time the political equation is different as opposition parties including the TMC have started flexing muscle, while GJM’s support base stand somewhat eroded.
On the other, though TMC registered one electoral victory after another since 2011 in rest of the state lost all the six assembly seats in the 2016 election in Darjeeling district. It also lost the Siliguri Municipal Corporation and Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad (subdivisional council) elections to the Left Front.
The May 14 municipality polls in politically volatile hills the hills has provided TMC the opportunity to prove its mettle. Despite GJM’s opposition, Mamata Banerjee has created 15 development bodies for different hill communities and pumped in hundreds of crores of rupees for them.
“This is a time for the development boards to pay back to the state government by supporting the TMC,” said a senior TMC leader requesting anonymity.
TMC was also successful in instigating rebellion among the GJM rank and file and GJM’s frontal organsiations as hundreds of ad-hoc employees of the GTA, ad-hoc, voluntary and organizing teachers joined the TMC bandwagon. Immediately after the ad-hoc teachers joined TMC their jobs were regularised by the state government.
“This was done by the state government just to create a division in the GJM,” said Bimal Gurung, the GJM president and the GTA chief executive. “Education is a transferred subject to the GTA but the state government never allowed it to work as per the GTA accord,” claimed Roshan Giri, GTA executive sabhasad for education department.
Though GJM is still a force to reckon with in Darjeeling hills, TMC is desperately trying to reach out to the people. It has forged an alliance with the GNLF.
Trinamool Congress has deployed scores of its senior leaders and ministers to bring home its first electoral victory in Darjeeling hills. GJM has made the election as Gorkhaland-versus-Bengal issue. GJM is seeking votes for creation of separate state and to give a befitting reply to the state government’s ‘divide and rule’ policy and ‘dirty’ politics.
The TMC and the state government are of the opinion that the four municipalities of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Mirik and Kalimpong were marred by corruption under the rule of GJM.
Goutam Deb the state tourism minister has been camping in Darjeeling since Tuesday and will be there till May 12. Similarly the party has lined up many senior ministers and leaders for campaigning in the hills. They include Abishek Banerjee, PWD minster Aroop Biswas, municipal affairs minister Firad Hakim, North Bengal development minister Rabindranath Ghosh, Mohan Sharma the sabhadipati of Alipurduar zilla parishad and Saurav Chakraborty the Alipurduar MLA and TMC’s president in Alipurduar district.
They would hold rallies and meetings in different parts of the hills. Abishek Banerjee will address a TMC-GNLF rally in Darjeeling on Friday. TMC is focusing on Mirik, Darjeeling and Kurseong while the Jan Andolan Party is set to give tough fight to the GJM in Kalimpong.
Deb said, ‘”Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has showered unprecedented love and developments in the hills.” She has visited Darjeeling hills more than 50 times in last six years and created a separate Kalimpong district, Deb said adding that hill people will vote for development and against the corrupt practices of GJM.