In a significant turnaround that could dispel to some extent the political uncertainty in the Darjeeling hills, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung has dropped his plan to quit as Chief Executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
“Our president has decided to stay on in the post and the GTA will continue to work towards the development of the region even as our campaign for a separate Gorkhaland State continues,” Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary, told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling on Thursday.
Peeved at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s remarks in Darjeeling in January that the hills are “an inseparable” part of West Bengal and accusing her government of undermining the autonomy of the GTA, Mr. Gurung in February said he would be quitting the regional body and instead devote his time to taking forward the agitation for a separate State.This would have led to all 45 GTA sabha members belonging to the GJM following suit, putting the future of the GTA in peril — something that has been averted, at least for now.
“The GJM leadership has decided that work in the GTA will continue and the party will keep to its commitment to the GTA agreement for the sake of development in the hills; the West Bengal government on its part should do the same,” Mr. Giri said.
“Mr. Gurung made his views on the matter clear at a rally at Dalapchand in Kalimpong earlier this week,” he added. Meetings between Mr. Gurung and some leaders with President Pranab Mukherjee and senior Union Ministers in New Delhi earlier this month and a letter from the West Bengal government to Mr. Gurung stating that all issues related to the GTA could be taken forward by working together might have got Mr. Gurung to change his mind on quitting the body.
The letter reached the GTA headquarters in Darjeeling on March 19.
Despite this, the GJM’s relations with Ms. Banerjee’s government are far from hunky-dory. It has expressed its displeasure with the State government for dragging its feet on the issue of withdrawal of cases against its supporters framed during the Gorkhaland agitation.
“I have sent a letter to the State Government two days ago reminding it of the decision at a meeting of a review committee on December 26, 2012, to withdraw within 10 days cases against 150 of our supporters charged under various cases. This is yet to happen,” Mr. Giri said.