BJP gets a boost in Darjeeling with a clutch of GJM leaders joining it
- The BJP was finding it difficult to set up a new base in the north Bengal hills because of the lack of local leaders.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday received a shot in the arm in the Darjeeling hills when some leaders of its former partner, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), joined the saffron camp.
The BJP which won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in 2009, retained it in 2014 and 2019 with support from local political parties, the most important among which was the undivided GJM led by Bimal Gurung.
The GJM split in 2017 when Gurung, who was charged under anti-terror law by the West Bengal government for the violent Gorkhaland movement, went into hiding. One faction of the party, headed by Binoy Tamang, became an ally of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and it currently runs the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
Gurung surfaced from hiding in October last year. He too offered support to Mamata Banerjee and swore to defeat the BJP in the coming assembly polls.
Among those who joined the BJP at a rally in the outskirts of Siliguri on Tuesday are Swaraj Thapa, former political advisor to Gurung; B P Bajgain, Gurung’s former spokesperson and Sawan Rai and L M Lama, former central committee members of the GJM’s Binoy Tamang faction.
Many GJM (Gurung faction) leaders from Terai, Kalimpong and Kurseong also joined the BJP. The party also roped in many academicians and trade union leaders and a retired West Bengal Civil Service officer.
Sayantan Basu, the BJP state general secretary who addressed the rally along with Raju Bista the party’s Lok Sabha MP from Darjeeling said, “The BJP is committed to the cause of the Gorkhas.”
“The development will create more fissures in the local parties including the GJM’s Gurung faction,” said Kalyan Dewan, the BJP’s Darjeeling unit president. Dewan himself was a senior leader of the Gurung faction before joining the BJP.
The hill leaders who joined the BJP said that they still believe that the BJP is the only party that will deliver what it promised to the people of Darjeeling.
The BJP, in its 2019 election manifesto, had promised to find a permanent political solution to the Gorkhaland issue and give scheduled tribe status to 11 Gorkha communities.
Gurung has alleged in his recent speeches that the BJP betrayed the Gorkhas and wasted their time for 12 years. He appeared before the media in Kolkata on October 21 and announced that he would shift his allegiance to Mamata Banerjee. Gurung has been asking people to vote for the TMC since then.
Lacking local leaders, the BJP was finding it difficult to set up a new base in the north Bengal hills. The scenario somewhat changed on Tuesday. Other smaller parties, such as the Gorkha National Liberation Front and Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists have already offered to support the BJP if it helps the cause of the Gorkhas.
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