DARJEELING: The first press conference of Baichung Bhutia, Trinamool Congress’ Darjeeling candidate for Lok Sabha polls, turned chaotic on Friday with the party’s leaders in the Hills voicing their dissent over any possibility of allying with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).
Everything was under control when North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb addressed the media. But things turned chaotic the moment Baichung addressed GJM president Bimal Gurung as ‘daju’ (brother) and talked about the good relation they shared and a possible alliance for LS polls. Rajen Tamang, Trinamool’s district committee vice-president and the subdivisional president, interrupted the briefing and shouted: “Bhayena yo ramro bhayena, hami morcha sanga mildaimildiuna” (Not good, this is not good, we will never tie up with the GJM).
Tamang went on to say that party activists had to face stiff obstacles to maintain a base in the Hills. “We have been intimidated and even roughed up by GJM supporters. We will never negotiate or tie up with the GJM. Whatever the outcome may be, we will go alone in the election,” he asserted with party comrades by his side.
Baichung tried to pacify the leaders saying Trinamool would contest alone in the Hills but would welcome GJM’s support. “We are ready at the grass-root level and are confident of winning the election by a handsome margin. However, if GJM supports me then it will be welcomed,” said the former footballer, amid the sloganeering supporters gathered at the Tourist Lodge in Darjeeling.
Before the chaos set in, the former footballer pointed to the good relation he shared with Gurung and also his wish to contest the election together. “I personally want the GJM to support me. I share a good relation with ‘Bimal daju’ and want to fight the election jointly,” Baichung said.
On Thursday, the GJM president had said he was disappointed with Baichung for not caring about the good relation they shared. He had also said his party would not support Baichung, as Trinamool had failed to consult him before announcing the name.
When asked to lay out his election agenda for the Hills, the MP aspirant said, “Our party president has already said that Darjeeling needs development. I know that Darjeeling has been neglected and ignored because of which it has witnessed agitations. I feel ushering development will bring peace and stability here which is what everyone wants,” said Baichung.
Minister Deb said Baichung was the best possible candidate for the Darjeeling Parliamentary constituency and that Friday’s meeting was the first interaction with supporters from the Hills. “Today, we met our party workers from the Hills including district committee members and discussed strategies that need to be adopted for the LS election. We also exchanged views and suggestions, as we cannot afford to waste time,” he said.
Hills Trinamool supporters gathered in numbers to interact with Baichung were left disappointed, as the latter along with minister Deb had to rush down to Siliguri to catch a flight to Kolkata to attend the MP candidates’ meeting with chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Bhutia draws ire of local TMC leaders after seeking GJM support
On the first day of his campaign in Darjeeling, Trinamool Congress’ star candidate and former footballer Baichung Bhutia faced the ire of TMC units in the hills for requesting Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung to support him.
Bhutia, who started his campaign Friday, held a meeting with local TMC workers in Darjeeling. After the meeting, he said, “I will be very happy if Morcha supports us. I request Bimal Gurung to support me in then election. I share a very good relation with Bimal Daju and our party supremo too said that GJM is welcome to support us.” However, during Bhutia’s speech, local TMC leaders started agitating.
Local TMC leaders started shouting that they would never negotiate with the GJM and want to fight elections alone. State minister Gautam Deb, who was present at the meeting, brought the situation under control. Asking local leaders and workers to calm down, Deb said, “TMC is confident in fighting the election alone. The party has set up its organisation in the hills, and the people of the hills will bring victory to us.”
Deb held a closed door meeting with Bhutia after which Bhutia said, “TMC is powerful enough to fight the elections alone in the hills… Baichung Bhutia is the best possible candidate we could field in Darjeeling.”
Sources in the TMC, however, said GJM leaders have started negotiating with the BJP.
Hill TMC Workers Angry at Bhaichung’s GJM Reference
Gautam Dev and Bhaichung Face Hill TMC Ire – Leave Darjeeling in a Huff
In what was supposed to be his first press conference Bhaichung Bhutia and the North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Dev had to face the ire of their own party workers.
Party workers, in particular well known ‘bahubali’ Appa Rajen and his supporters who had joined TMC amidst much fanfare last year, became enraged when Bhaichung said, “I have good relations with GJM Chief Bimal Gurung, I am hopeful he will support us… if GJM support us we can easily win the election and work together for the development of Darjeeling”
On hearing Bhaichung’s parley to Bimal Gurung, Appa Rajen became livid and stood up and said, “We joined TMC to oppose GJM not to become friends with them..” he further said, “the party leaders have become hypocrites, because of which party workers have to suffer.” He also said, “if our party decides to take support from GJM, then I am my followers will have to rethink our strategy… we will never support GJM or take its support… We will protest any move to tie up with GJM and will take up this matter with party high command.”
Following Appa Rajen’s vocal outrage, his supporters started to shout anti-Bhutia and anti-Dev slogans, which embarrassed the Minister enough to cause him to leave Darjeeling in a huff.
Sources in the party have said that Appa Rajen will be disciplined and in fact his days with the TMC may be numbered.
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