The current leader of the GJM is Bimal Gurung and he is taken as the Gorkha leader with political clout and Gorkhaland issues are discussed with him by the center as he has stood tall. In this elections he has been challenged in his home turf of Kalimpong by a combine of Harka Bahadur Chhetri and Prof Mahendra P Lama, thus how does Kalimpong vote becomes crucial and we will get to know that shortly by 07 May, on counting day. The vote at Kalimpong is either pro or anti Bimal Gurung. Why does Bengal matter, is it about “Gorkha Diaspora”, which it is not. Gorkha population is independent of Darjeeling but politically it is taken as Darjeeling centrist which we need to break free.
The elections of 2016 will long be remembered as a land mark election for the formation of Gorkhaland as GJM lost its relevance to BJP, will BJP walk its talk is the million dollar question? There are a couple of things here that need to be highlighted, for the first time in fifteen years Gorkhaland is not an emotive issue. Secondly regarding the Kalimpong constituency the vote is likely to be for or against Bimal Gurung, as he was being challenged on his own home turf. There are layers of understanding between local candidates and various political parties, bereft of political ideology keeping local issues as the focal point, jockeying for political advantage. The GJM candidates are contesting down below in the plains but on BJP tickets. Is this a master stroke or will Bimal Gurung loses out on the larger game of Gorkhaland only time will tell. The BJP in 2014 wanted 174 seats in Bengal so that it could rule Bengal. After losing Delhi and Bihar elections in 2015, the BJP looked for alliance partners and the GJM was a willing partner in 2016. The BJP calculation is to have a say in Bengal and be a king maker. If the BJP wants to be a king maker in Bengal can it do so by balkanizing Bengal or by threatening to balkanize Bengal. It seems the BJP purpose will be served more by being a king maker thus Gorkhaland again looks tough. But that’s about the future which is difficult to predict. The political situation regarding who is contesting under whose banner at Darjeeling was at best comic with a comedy of confusions, as to who is contesting elections from which party. The normal trend was that people would announce their name from a Gorkha party and would finally land up fighting from the main land parties, the Gorkhas thus suffered, it happened many times. The most prominent case was with Jan Andolan Party (JAP), its president Harka Bahadur Chhetri, was named the ruling party’s (TMC), official candidate after protests the TMC issued a clarification. Harka Bahadur was earlier a close associate of Bimal Gurung and the sitting MLA from Kalimpong. As per reports available the doyen of Gorkha think tanks Prof Mahendra P Lama is the ideolog of this party, and this party wants to create a district of Kalimpong, the results are awaited. Another case was that of Laxman Pradhan of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) announced he as Darjeeling candidate but on the last day Pradhan had a rethink. Regarding creating Kalimpong a howler was let out by one of the politicians saying Kalimpong had not been completely incorporated in the Indian union and it continued to be a land leased from Bhutan. The amount of confusion the political class creates for votes one wonders, do citizens of Kalimpong need visas and passports by that logic.
Gorkhaland posters adorned Darjeeling and Bimal Gurung once again flogged the emotive issue of Gorkhaland in the hills, the big difference being that his party candidates were fighting on his tickets in the three hill districts but down below in the plains, it was a mix up of tie up between BJP and GJM, thus the greater cause of Gorkhaland could go to the winds only regional power and prestige mattered. The BJP and GJM alliance is fighting in ten assembly seats of North Bengal, thus GJM would give BJP much needed seats for bargaining. The rough breakdown was three in Darjeeling on GJM name, in the plains it is a tie up, for seats at Islampur and Chhopra, five other in North Bengal including Kalchiri, Nagarkata, Madarihat, thus forming the head of the BJP led juggernaut. The TMC of Mamata divided the Gorkhas into various factions called development boards like Lepcha and Tamang being the most prominent. These people are very much Gorkhas, but divide and rule is the good old British practice, thus Gurung GTA fell out with Mamata. The fact that the Gorkha vote has split can be clearly seen as the Sherpa, Bhutia, Tamang, Mangar, Khambu Rai and Limbu community development boards held an indoor meeting prior to voting day and decided to support the Trinamool. The results are awaited and will tell the story. There is another letter doing the rounds for tribal status for eleven communities, broken down and will be discussed later as that too is a red herring. Thus the leadership debate continues, as of now Bimal Gurung is the tallest leader will this be reinforced or challenged the election results will show.
Brig C S Thapa writes for various newspapers and magazines and can be reached at email@example.com
Art by:- Anmol Mukhia