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Darjeeling bandh formally called off as Gorkha Janmukti Morcha "loses" ground, BJP becomes "inconsequential"

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
The Darjeeling hill flames are doused, or are they? Whatever may be the compulsion, after 104 days the bandh has been formally called off by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung in response to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s appeal for talks.
The fact is that life in the hills was already becoming normal following Binoy Tamang’s call. In that context the Home Minister’s appeal to call off the bandh sounds rather a diplomatic move and probably is a face-saver for Bimal Gurung faction of GJM.
It is clear that while the state government depends more on Binay Tamang, the centre seems to keep Bimal Gurung on good books. It may also be a ploy also to play one faction of GJM against the other.
According to the state government, the Home Minister’s appeal and the withdrawal of bandh appear meaningless when a new Gurkha Territorial Administration (GTA) board headed by Binay Tamang had taken charge, internet has been re-opened and shops are lifting their shutters showing in effect that the bandh is already withdrawn.
What remained is the fear if the Bimal Gurung faction will resort to violence to keep the bandh technically going.
The Home Minister’s appeal also indicates that the home secretary has been asked to open discussion but it is not clear if it will be a tripartite discussion. The question is: why did the centre until now did not show any interest to initiate a meeting and left it to the state government to resolve it “as a law and order” issue.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already held two rounds of meeting with hill leaders. Life has been returning to normal.
Trinamul’s view is that behind the current move is the BJP’s growing frustration as it is becoming irrelevant in state politics, especially in relation to hills. That is why on Monday BJP MP from Darjeeling SS Ahluwalia and state BJP president Dilip Roy met Rajnath Singh post haste and demanded that the Home Minister should announce a meeting to resolve the Darjeeling issue under centre’s auspices and also assure it would be held soon.
Not only the other GJM was losing ground fast in the hills, but the BJP itself was becoming inconsequential in state politics, they asserted. Hence, the next day came the statement from the Home Minister.
Gurung has been steadily losing his main lieutenants going over to Binay Tamang camp. In such a situation Gurung must have realised that may be the announcement of lifting of the bandh would be the better part of valour. He also reportedly opposed any harsh measures against those who have left his camp.
Binay Tamang retorted to Gurung’s overture saying that the hill people were not accepting the immobilisation of hill life while some one hiding in the jungle was issuing fiats. District Magistrate Jayasi Dasgupta commented in an oblique reference to Gurung: If you are thinking so much about the hill people, when then why hide in the jungle and Sikkim hotel? Why not come to the main bazaar and announce it!
The coming days will show who wins in this tug of war for GJM leadership.
---
*Veteran journalist

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