Ahead of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) election, scheduled to be held in June, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha ( GJM) president Bimal Gurung on Saturday wrote a letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking transfer of the rest of the residual departments to the GTA, the regional autonomous body of the Darjeeling hills, and the inclusion of the 396 Gurkha majority mouzas into it.
Mr. Gurung, in his letter, pointed out that in October 2020, the GJM had snapped all ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party and allied with the Trinamool Congress. Mr. Gurung who founded the GJM in 2007, said his party had never wavered in its alliance with the Trinamool. He sought talks with Ms. Banerjee to discuss the issues before the election.
“The State government in consultation with the State Election Commission has decided to hold elections to the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration in June,” the West Bengal government said in a statement, announcing the long-awaited polls. There are 45 elected members in the GTA and five others are nominated by the Governor.
The GTA was formed as a result of a tripartite agreement between the Centre, the State and the GJM in 2011 after the earlier experiment of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council failed.
The demands raised by Mr. Gurung are part of a memorandum of agreement signed during the 2011 settlement.
The Darjeeling hills has witnessed violent agitation since the 1980s over the demand for the creation of a separate State of Gorkhaland, the last being a 100-day agitation and strike in 2017 during which 11 people lost their lives.
It was in 2017 that Mr. Gurung resigned as the chairperson of the GTA following which the violent agitation ensued. Since then, the GTA has been run by administrators nominated by the State government. The GTA election, scheduled in June, is to be held after 11 years.
The hills in the past few Lok Sabha and Assembly elections have voted for the BJP and the hill parties. After the 2017 agitation, the Trinamool government slapped a number of cases, including charges under the UAPA Act, on Mr. Gurung.
The cases were withdrawn after Mr. Gurung returned to the hills before the 2021 Assembly election and announced his support for the Trinamool.
The recent civic polls has, however, seen the rise of a new political force in Darjeeling in Hamro Party, which won 18 of the 32 wards under the Darjeeling Municipality.