Kolkata, (Aryavarth) The TMC on Thursday ruled out the possibility of supporting the demand for Gorkhaland, a day after it welcomed GJM supremo Bimal Guring to its party fold, with the outfit having walked out of the NDA, accusing the BJP-led dispensation of not fulfilling promises.
Senior TMC leader and Lok Sabha MP Saugata Roy said Gurung joined the Mamata Banerjee-led party, as it felt cheated by the saffron camp.
“There is no question of Gorkhaland. We have dismissed that demand long back. Bimal Gurung felt cheated by the BJP, so he decided to join us. We welcome him and together we would fight against the BJP,” Roy said.
Echoing him, a state cabinet minister from North Bengal, who did not wish to be named, said, “Gorkhaland can never be a reality”.
“Together, we will work for the overall development of the Hills and the state,” the minister said.
Gurung, after joining hands with the TMC, had clarified on Wednesday that there was “no going back” on the demand for Gorkhaland — a separate state — and said his outfit, prior to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, would align with any party that supports the cause.
The Gorkha leader, who was on the run since 2017 following a three-month-long agitation in Darjeeling over the demand for a separate state, has quit the NDA, underscoring that the saffron party has “failed to find a permanent solution” for the Hills.
The state BJP unit, following the announcement, asked the TMC to clear its stand on Gorkhaland
According to GJM sources, however, the trigger for the break-up of the 12-year-old alliance between the BJP and the Gurung-led outfit was prompted by the saffron camp’s growing proximity to the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and the its attempt to start a membership drive in the Hills.
“The BJP was trying to get along with GNLF, after the 2019 assembly bypolls in the hills. The GJM could not field any candidate as its entire top brass was in hiding. GNLF leader Neeraj Zimba contested the polls from Darjeeling on a BJP ticket and won the seat.
“Since then, the BJP had been trying to spread its wings in the Hills. It did not go down well with the Gurung,” a senior Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader said.
According to a TMC leader, the party was in talks with the Binay Tamang (faction) of the GJM to ensure that it gets along with Gurung’s organisation, ahead of the 2021 elections.
The Mamata Banerjee-led party is hopeful that the new political realignment will have “far-reaching political impact” on the North Bengal region, which has 54 assembly segments, and where the TMC had drawn blank in the last Lok Sabha polls, he explained.
Sources in the state’s ruling party said the latest development would change several ground equations in North Bengal in its favour, as Gurung enjoys influence in 12-14 assembly seats and holds sway over 11 Gorkha communities, which, together, are a deciding factor in 18-20 of the 54 assembly seats, spread across Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar.
“The GJM will play an important role in helping us win those seats and stop the march of the BJP in the region.
Gurung has strong influence over tea garden workers,” the TMC leader said.
Riding on its alliance with various social groups and the GJM, the saffron party has made deep inroads in North Bengal, once considered to be a bastion of the Congress and the TMC, and bagged seven out of eight Lok Sabha seats, including the Darjeeling parliamentary seat for the third consecutive time, in 2019 general election.
The GJM had won three seats in the Darjeeling region during the last assembly polls. It also helped the BJP bag one seat in Dooars, and provided tacit support to the TMC in some other constituencies.
The picturesque Darjeeling had repeatedly witnessed violent agitation over the demand for a separate state, the latest being in June 2017, when the Hills saw a 104-day-long strike over the issue.
The agitation also led to a split in the GJM, with Binay Tamang, once a deputy to the outfit’s supremo Gurung, taking over the reins of the party and expelling the boss.
Although the GJM faction led by Gurung continued to align with the BJP, the other camp, headed by Tamang, joined hands with the ruling TMC in the state.