Even as uncertainty looms large over the return of Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung to the Darjeeling hills, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha or GJM (Bimal Gurung faction) which he heads on Wednesday announced that he would soon address a rally in the plains in Siliguri.
Gurung suddenly appeared in Kolkata on October 21 after remaining underground for almost three and half years and announced his support to the Trinamool Congress in the 2021 assembly elections. He also announced to severe his alliance with the BJP on the pretext that the saffron party despite winning three consecutive Lok Sabha polls from Darjeeling did not fulfil its promises to find a permanent political solution and granting of schedule tribe status to the 11 Gorkha sub-communities that have left out of the classification.
Though his supporters have been claiming that Gurung would soon return to his home in Darjeeling hills, it is unlikely that he would do so unless he gets legal remedy or the state government withdraws the cases against him.
Among hundreds of charges he faces are those under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Bishal Chhetri, vice president of the party’s central committee on Wednesday said, “Gurung would soon return from Kolkata and would address a rally in Siliguri. Bagajatin Park in Siliguri will witness the presence of thousands of people from Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars to welcome Gurung.” Chhetri did not say the date of Gurung’s return.
Though Chettri said that Gurung would certainly return to the hills, opposition parties claim that it is easier said than done.
There is also speculations that Gurung may not immediately return to the hills where his bête noire Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa are calling the shots.
Tamang who heads the GJM (Binoy Tamang faction) and Thapa who is the chairman of the board of administrators in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration had come to the help of the state chief minister Mamata Banerjee when she was in serious crisis in 2017 during the 104-day-long general strike in the hills demanding separate state of Gorkhaland.
It was largely due to Tamang and Thapa that the Gorkhaland movement derailed as Banerjee heaved a sigh of relief while Gurung and his supporters facing multiple charges had to flee the hills for years.
“Though Tamang and Thapa failed to deliver results in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and 2019 assembly bye poll in Darjeeling despite all the backing of the state government, the Chief Minister would not disown them immediately,” said a leader of the GJM (Tamang faction) who did not wish to be named. “Though Gurung still has a strong support base in the hills, his entry in the hills is all set to invite unrest and Banerjee would obviously not want this to happen,” the leader said.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Anit Thapa said, “Gurung is going to become another Subash Ghisingh and his political career is soon coming to an end.”
Ghisingh the Gorkha National Liberation Front president and former chairman of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was hounded out of Darjeeling by the GJM on July 26 2008. Since then Ghisingh was living in Jalpaiguri and Siliguri in the plains with his occasional entry to the hills. Ghisingh the man who first started the Gorkhaland movement in the eighties and ruled the hills absolutely for almost 20 years unsuccessfully tried for his political comeback in the hills till he died in Delhi in January 2010.
Thapa said, “Gurung had political value till the time he seemed uncompromising with the issue of Gorkhaland. Minus Gorkhaland, he is nothing.”
However Gurung’s party is rapidly expanding its local units all across the hills and his supporters are hopeful that he would soon return to the hills and call the shots.