The Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM), a political outfit set up by Anit Thapa in September 2021, is all set to form the board at Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the regional autonomous body of Darjeeling hills. The BGPM won 27 of 45 seats on Wednesday when the results of the GTA were declared. Elections to the GTA were held on June 26.
The electoral outcome is significant to the politics of the hills, a region that has witnessed decades of agitation over the demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland.
Mr. Thapa is considered to be close to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leadership and was also appointed administrator of the GTA by the West Bengal government. Interestingly, the TMC which has not been able to taste much electoral success in the hills even after a decade of rule in West Bengal, won five seats at the GTA. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), led by Bimal Gurung, and the Bharatiya Janata Party have stayed away from the election.
Among the significant winners was Mr. Thapa who contested from two constituencies — Giddapahar and Sittong-Latpanchor — and won both the seats. TMC candidate Binay Tamang won from Dali-Bloomfield constituency in the hills. Harmo Party’s chief Ajay Edwards won from Darjeeling Sadar- 3 constituency. Hamro Party had won Darjeeling municipality earlier this year and maintained its influence in Darjeeling town, winning eight seats of the GTA. In five constituencies, independents managed to secure victory. It will be interesting to see whether the BGPM joins hands with the TMC to form the GTA board, or goes it alone. Both Mr. Thapa and Mr. Tamang were with the GJM and were close aides of Mr. Gurung till June 2017, when the hills plunged into 100-day violent agitation over the demand of a separate State.
“The journey started in 2017. The people of the hillls have been voting for popular sentiment and we are happy to bring in practical politics to the hills,” Mr. Thapa said. He also emphasised that GTA was under the West Bengal government andthe task cut out for him has a lot of challenges . Mr. Edwards said that victory of the TMC in five seats was surprising and his party would play the role of a constructive Opposition in the GTA.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee while pointing out that hills have been of boil in the past expressed happiness at the outcome of the polls. “Democratic process has started, people of the hills have participated in the votes very peacefully. Anit’s party got 27 seats, we contested 10 and got five, some independents have won.. So out of 45 only eight are opposition candidates and the rest all are with us,” she said. The Chief Minister also added that TMC had an alliance with BGPM.
Elections to the GTA, which was formed as a result of a tripartite agreement between the GJM, the Union government and the West Bengal government in 2012, was held after a gap of 10 years. The elections recorded 59.05% polling percentage. The GTA was lying defunct since 2017, when during the 100-day agitation, Mr. Gurung, the chairperson of the GTA, and other sabhasads (members) resigned. The State government had appointed administrators to run the body that was aimed at providing self-rule to the people of the hills. GTA polls were held peacefully and without any allegations of intimidation and electoral malpractice. This has come as a shot in the arm to the West Bengal government.
TMC wrests control of SMP
During the day, results for the Siliguri Mahakuma Parshad (SMP) were also declared and the TMC was able to wrest the control of the three-tier body from the Left parties. This was the first time that the TMC was able to win the SMP located in Darjeeling district, since its formation in 1989.The last election to SMP was held in 2015.
Bypolls were held on six wards across three districts and the TMC won four wards. Mithun Kandu, the nephew of Congress councillor Tapan Kandu who was killed on February 19, won ward number 2 of Jhalda Municipality in Purulia district. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate won ward number 17 of Chandannagar Municipal Corporation. All the four wards of North 24 Parganas went to the polls on June 26.