An unwavering demand for separate statehood in the hill town of Darjeeling in West Bengal had shot Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung to fame.
Absconding since the 2017 Darjeeling unrest, Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung resurfaced in Kolkata on Wednesday, 21 October, to announce that he is breaking ties with the NDA and pledging his support to the ruling TMC for the 2021 elections.
"“I am breaking all my ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as it never fulfilled its promise of a separate statehood for Gorkhaland. I would like to separate myself from the NDA. I would like to break our ties with the BJP.”" - Bimal Gurung, Gorkha Leader
In 2017, the same TMC government had charged him with numerous criminal cases, including those under the UAPA for causing violence during his call for a 104-day agitation demanding separate Gorkhaland.
Now, with state elections only eight months away, Bimal Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) severing ties with the BJP could lead to paradigm shifts in Bengal politics.
The Rise of Bimal Gurung
Born to tea garden workers, Bimal Gurung rose to become the messiah of hope for the Gorkhas after Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader Subhash Ghising.
Gurung, who had joined GNLF in 1986 to fight for the cause of separate Gorkhaland, was expelled from the outfit in October 2007, which is when he went onto form the GJM.
By 2008, Gurung had established himself as the sole kingpin in the hills when his supporters blocked all entry points and did not allow Ghising to enter the state after his visit to New Delhi.
Tryst with TMC
After an uneasy relationship with the Left government, when Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011, Gurung found an opportunity to enter into a truce with the government by signing the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). But that relationship, too, went downhill.
After the violent agitation in 2017 when Gurung went ‘missing’, Mamata Banerjee was successful in splitting the GJM after Gurung’s close aide Bimal Tamang broke away and supported the TMC. Gurung had extended support to the BJP in 2009, helping Jaswant Singh win the Lok Sabha polls.
In 2011 state elections, GJM won three Assembly seats in Darjeeling. Even though the Gurung faction jolted a heavy blow to the TMC’s hope of conquering the hills in 2019 Lok Sabha elections by helping BJP candidate Raju Bista win, Gurung’s hold over the Gorkhaland movement was weakened due to the divide.
But in the 2021 elections, GJM’s split from the NDA could heavily dampen the BJP’s grand plan in north Bengal and help the TMC win six Assembly seats in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
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