Darjeeling hills in line for fresh bout of political activity

Sat, Jun 1, 2019

SILIGURI: The Darjeeling hills are showing signs of coming alive politically again.
How hot the resurged political activity would be is a wait and watch affair, but the distant footfalls are approaching for sure.
The BJP’s electoral achievement in West Bengal has given the Bimal Gurung faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) the boost it required to attempt a return to power in the hills.
It has already achieved a major part of that condition by returning a BJP MP from the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency fighting against every imaginable odd.
The candidate was an unknown quantity and the BJP does not have an organization to be proud of in the constituency.
It was depending altogether on the general people’s dislike for the Trinamool and above all, the awesome sensation that comes under the name of Bimal Gurung, to get first past the electoral post.   
If that was some feat, winning the Darjeeling Assembly by-poll was no small matter either. Both victories under the given circumstances indicate which way the political wind is blowing in the hills.
And so, an effort to win back his home turf is on way from Gurung and his loyalists. The dual elections illustrated they have the numbers on their side.
A fresh round of political pursuit in the hills is therefore a given. What now remains to be seen is what line would the movement take.
No one would want the spectre of the 2017 brand of politics to return to the hills. But, when has political activity in West Bengal, Darjeeling hills included, remained in the confines of a social movement?
For Gurung and his followers the task of rebuilding his image as the political overlord of the hills may not be possible anymore. The most followed leader yes, but unchallenged no more.
Politics in the hills has moved on a different tangent since the GJM split into two factions.
Backed by the Trinamool and the state government, the Binay Tamang faction of the GJM is now at the helm of affairs.
The Tamang faction has its share of followers too in the hills and if push comes to a shove, it would not let go off the trappings of power without a fight.
Moreover, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), which had gone on a limbo following the unified GJM’s emergence in 2007, is now back as a serious political contender.
The Gurung faction and the GNLF are currently political buddies, a relationship etched on the wings of the just-concluded elections. That amity is fresh and bubbling at the moment.
Their first objective would be to replace the Tamang faction from authority in all institutions and stall the Trinamool’s progress in the hills.
With BJP guaranteed to give a serious push to win the 2021 Assembly elections in West Bengal, Gurung and his followers would definitely go all out to be a part of that combination.
A BJP win could be his passport to return home.
When all such calculations are at play, the job at hand is easier said than done. The situation could get genuinely sticky from here on.
And that is where the worry is.

Area: 7096 Sq Km
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi