Expressing happiness, she says Darjeeling is "truly smiling" now

Even as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee believes that the decision of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) to participate in the elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) will help facilitate a new era in the Darjeeling hills, there was mounting pressure within the GJM on party president Bimal Gurung to contest in the GTA polls scheduled for July 29.

Leaders of the GJM met in Darjeeling on Sunday to decide on the party’s nominees for all the 45 constituencies where polling is to be held. Attempts were on to persuade Mr. Gurung to contest so that he heads the GTA once the new autonomous body is set up after the polls in the event of the party winning the elections, sources in the GJM told The Hindu over telephone.

Expressing happiness over GJM’s decision, Ms. Banerjee on Saturday wrote on her Facebook page that Darjeeling was “truly smiling” now.

The Chief Minister, who has been claiming that her government’s initiatives to resolve break the political gridlock in the Darjeeling hills has the hills to “smiling” again, wrote it was a happy day for all “as my brothers and sisters of Darjeeling have decided to participate in the democratic process of elections next month.”

“Truly Darjeeling is now smiling. Peace, development and prosperity will bring a new era in Darjeeling,” she said.

Suspends protest programmes

The GJM leadership has suspended all its agitation programmes which had been announced earlier following its rejection of the recommendation of the committee set up to look into the transfer of areas in the Terai and Dooars to the GTA. It had on June 10 announced a series of protest programmes that included a three-day strike in the region and even setting on fire copies of the GTA agreement at a public rally.

The decision of the GJM to contest has come as a saving grace to Ms. Banerjee and her government which announced the GTA election schedule at a time when the GJM was undecided on its stand on the polls. Relations between it and the government had been strained in the wake of Justice (retired) Shyamal Sen’s recommendation that five mouzas in the Terai and Dooars be brought within the ambit of the GTA against the GJM’s demand for 396.

The GTA election process is now well on its way, but the contentious issue of the proposed body’s territorial jurisdiction continues to be a sore point with the GJM. Mr. Gurung had said so at his meeting with Ms. Banerjee here on June 28 even though her government’s decision to set up a fact-verification committee to look into the “factual aspects” of Justice Sen’s report has pre-empted a showdown between the GJM and the State government.