DARJEELING: Ignoring the insistence of Trinamool Congress leaders in the Hills on not allying with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), their Lok Sabha candidate Baichung Bhutia on Saturday night called up Bimal Gurung and sought support for the ensuing polls.
This comes in the wake of Trinamool leaders ruling out any possibility of partnering with the GJM at a recent press conference in Darjeeling and the GJM blasting Mamata Banerjee for “betraying” them by announcing Baichung’s candidature.
Binay Tamang, the GJM assistant secretary presently camped in Delhi with the party president and central committee leaders, told TOI over phone: “Baichung called up our president on Saturday night and sought support. The two spoke for about eight minutes. During the course of the conversation, Baichung referred to the good relations they shared and said it would be difficult for him to win from Darjeeling without GJM’s support.”
The GJM leader further added, “Our party president made it clear that the Trinamool had announced Baichung’s name without consulting the GJM. Our president also apprised him that the party had not yet taken any decision on the party’s candidate and alliance.”
When contacted, Baichung did not deny having called the GJM president. He, however, refused to go into the details. “I do not deny the claim of having called Bimal ‘daju’. But I do not want to comment on what we discussed over phone,” said the Trinamool candidate.
During his first conference on March 7, Baichung was left embarrassed when Trinamool Hills unit president Rajen Tamang abruptly cut short his speech and insisted that Trinamool won’t join hands with the GJM. But on Sunday, Baichung iterated what he had said in his press briefing. “It is known to all that our party has been in talks with the GJM at various levels. Our party’s stand remains that the doors are open to any party that’s willing to support us. I personally feel that supporting Trinamool will make the Hills’ voice stronger in Parliament. But nonetheless, I am confident of winning the LS polls even without anyone’s support,” said Baichung, who did not clarify which parties were approached for support.
Bhutia calls, Gurung snubs
VIVEK CHHETRI AND NIRMAL MANGAR
Darjeeling, March 9: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang today said Bhaichung Bhutia called up hill party chief Bimal Gurung in Delhi last night seeking his endorsement to his Trinamul candidature but was turned down.
A source in the hills said the Morcha was giving out the information about Bhaichung’s phone call targeting the hill Trinamul, which does not want any tie-up with the Morcha for the election.
Bhaichung today confirmed that he had made a phone call to Gurung and that the talk “did not come to the logical conclusion”. He said he spoke to Gurung because party seniors wanted to speak to the hill leader.
“Bhaichung Bhutia called up our party president around 10.10 last night and they spoke for around five to seven minutes,” said Tamang, who is in Delhi with Gurung.
Tamang said Bhaichung sought Morcha’s support for the Darjeeling seat. “He told our president that it would be very difficult to win the Darjeeling seat without his support,” Tamang, who is a GTA Sabha member, said.
Gurung reportedly said Trinamul had fielded Bhaichung without consulting the Morcha. “Moreover, our party president also pointed out that Trinamul cadres in the hills had posed a challenge to win the seat without the Morcha’s support and in such a situation it would be difficult for the Morcha to support Bhaichung’s candidature,” Tamang, the Morcha assistant secretary, said.
The hill source said: “Back-door negotiations between politicians are common during election time, but the Morcha seems to be purposely leaking this to further antagonise the hill Trinamul leadership.”
On Friday, Trinamul district committee vice-president Rajen Tamang, popularly known as Appa Rajen, had loudly protested at a news conference in Darjeeling when Bhaichung had suggested he would like to seek the Morcha’s support.
The source said: “Such a disclosure is expected to help the Morcha.” Rajen Tamang today said that the Morcha was unnecessarily making an issue of the call.
Trinamul sources said Bhaichung has decided to meet Rajen Tamang in Darjeeling on Tuesday. Observers believe that Bhaichung is expected to smoothen ruffled feathers.
Bhaichung said he had called up Gurung a “day after my name was announced by the TMC”.
“My seniors in the party wanted to talk with Gurung for the alliance following which the call was made. The talk did not come to the logical conclusion.” Asked which leaders the Morcha team spoke to in Delhi, Binay Tamang said: “We will inform the media only when there is some concrete announcement to make.”
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