The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Thursday crossed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA- an autonomous administrative arrangement for the Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal) magic figure of 23, winning 28 seats out of the 45 seats, uncontested. They can now comfortably form the GTA Sabha
following the completion of election process. The remaining 17 constituencies will go to polls on July 29.
The Returning Officers of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong sub divisions handed out the Election Certificates to the candidates who had emerged victorious uncontested. This list included GJM Chief Bimal Gurung; Gurung’s wife and Morcha Women’s Wing Chief Asha Gurung; Vice President Bhupendra Pradhan (@Pradip Pradhan;) General Secretary Roshan Giri and Assistant Secretary Binay Tamang.
Gurung was not present in person at the Darjeeling District Collectorate but had sent his election agent to collect his election certificate. All the GJM top brass were present to collect their certificates. “We also alloted the symbols to the contesting candidates” stated Samden Dukpa, Returning Officer, Darjeeling. As per their request GJM candidates have been allotted the “Sun” symbol.
Initially there were 13 CPIM candidates, 18 TMC candidates, 45 GJM candidates and 46 independent candidates in the fray. 19 candidatures were rejected and 40 candidates withdrew from the fray. There are 45 elected seats in the GTA and 5 nominated seats (to be nominated by the West Bengal Governor.) Counting of the 17 constituencies to go to polls will take place on August 2.
The CPIM withdrew all their candidates from the fray citing “GJM’s rein of terror, intimidation and lack of democracy in the hills as the reason for the withdrawal. However the Morcha could not coax dissident GJM leader Sanchabir Subba who is contesting as an independent against the GJM official candidate Kalyan Dewan in the Gitdabling Nimbong constituency of Kalimpong to withdraw.
“He has been expelled from the party. Even his primary membership stands cancelled “ stated Bimal Gurung, GJM President. The TMC has fielded one Bruno Lepcha in this constituency (the only constituency to witness a triangular battle.) Only one Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate has withdrawn with 17 left in the fray.
Gurung stated “I am truly happy today. We have won 28 seats already and can form the GTA Sabha (Board.) This is a people’s victory, victory of 44 months of agitation.” He however stated that the Chief and the Deputy Chief for the GTA has not been decided upon yet. However political observers feel that Gurung will retain the post of Chief “on public demand.”
“There is no permanent friend or foe in politics” stated GJM Supremo Bimal Gurung thanking the CPIM for withdrawing all their candidates from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) fray and expressed displeasure at the Trinamool Congress’ decision to contest elections.
Gurung on Thursday thanked the CPIM and expressed displeasure at the TMC for contesting the GTA elections. “The State, Centre and GJM had signed the GTA agreement. In that the State and Centre had asked us to run the GTA. Though the Centre (Congress) kept their part of the bargain, the State (TMC run) did not. They violated the agreement by fielding candidates. We feel saddened at this attitude. If TMC looses, all the discredit will go to TMC President Mamata Banerjee and not to local TMC leaders. She should have thought of this before fielding candidates” stated Gurung.
Gurung was all praise for the CPIM. “They took a wise decision by withdrawing their candidates. I as President of the GJM thank the CPIM top brass for taking this decision.”
Not humored by Gurung’s praises, CPIM leader and former Muncipal Affairs Minister, Ashok Bhattacharjee alleged “The CPIM has withdrawn all 13 candidates from the fray owing to the reign of terror and intimidation unleashed by the GJM. GJM supporters arrived at the residences of our candidates and threatened them with dire consequences if they failed to withdraw their candidature within 3pm on July 12. There is no democracy in the Hills”.
Gurung stated that the GTA would give priority to Education; employment for the youth; health and communication (roads.) “We will put an end to politics over drinking water. The water crisis issue will be resolved” stated Gurung.
The GJM Chief stated that emphasis would be given to the development of the grass root level. “We will form committees comprising of our core committee and study group who will study the situation prevalent at the grass root and advice the GTA Sabha on measures to be adopted for their development” stated Gurung.