The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (Bimal Gurung camp) today claimed support from 17 ward councillors of the Darjeeling Municipality, who had earlier defected to the BJP.

Sharing the dais with Morcha leader Bimal Gurung in Kolkata today, the councillors announced their return to the party and alleged that the BJP that they had supported did nothing for the Hills.

The councillors had in 2019 filed a no-confidence motion against the then chairperson of the covic body had joined the BJP in Delhi. With no meeting called for a trust vote, the deadlock paved the way for the state government to appoint the Darjeeling Additional District Magistrate (General) as the administrator of the municipality.

“We announced earlier that we have left the alliance with the NDA and have extended our support to Mamata Banerjee. We supported the BJP for so many years, but they did not fulfill the commitments they had made. They were only using us as vote machines. On the other hand, whatever the Bengal CM commits, she fulfills them,” Mr Gurung told a press conference.

Mr Gurung added that they have also sent a proposal to the state government about their demand for a permanent political solution and expressed hope that it will be met in the coming days.

“With the 17 councillors holding our party flag today, the Morcha and the TMC will form a board alliance and teach the BJP a lesson. In the 2021 elections, we will teach a big lesson to the BJP for wasting our time for so many years. We will come out in the fields and do that through the election results in north Bengal,” Mr Gurung said, adding that he would do whatever it takes to stay with Miss Banerjee and teach a lesson to the BJP.

Though the Gurung camp today claimed that 17 ward councillors had rejoined them today, some councillors from among the 17 had earlier on joined the Binoy Tamang faction of the Morcha. It could not be independently verified as to how many councillors had switched allegiance to the Tamang camp.

At the press conference, the councilor of Ward-6, Noman Rai, said, “We had joined the BJP earlier as our party had an alliance with them. It was because of our party that the BJP won three MP elections and also won one MLA seat. Even though they had mentioned in their manifesto a permanent political solution for our area and granting of tribal status for 11 communities, they did not fulfill it. Due to this, we decided to rejoin our party.”There are presently 32 wards in the Darjeeling Municipality, with one of the seats being won by a TMC councillor. Apart from that, Ward 17 councilor Ram Jan Golay had resigned in 2017, while Ward 20 councilor Mani Pradhan died in between. Ward 28 councillor Lakpa Sherpa also died recently.

While Mr Gurung refused to interact with the media, political sources said he and his associates are now under the “shelter” of Trinamul Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Miss Banerjee, in Diamond Harbour area. “Mr Gurung now acts as per directions of Mr Banerjee and guided by political strategist Prashant Kishor,” a source said. Sources also said that the TMC leadership plans to “maintain an understanding” between the Binoy Tamang Anit Thapa faction of the Morcha and the Gurung-Roshan Giri faction so as to “keep control” of the entire Gorkha community in north Bengal, at a time when the Gorkha National Liberation front is still with the BJP in the Hills.

Bista rues ‘personal convenience’

On the other hand, BJP’s national spokesperson and Darjeeling MP Raju Bista said the Darjeeling Municipality councillors had quit the “GJMM-II-(Binoy Tamang faction supported by the TMC) led board” and joined the Gurung faction. “However, later, when the West Bengal police started to harass them, they had voluntarily joined the BJP. All through this process, the BJP was neither consulted with, nor did they take our inputs when leaving the Binoy faction and quitting the Darjeeling Municipality board,”

Mr Bista said. “Even today, they announced leaving the BJP via a press conference, which is reflective of the fact that they had joined the BJP for their personal convenience and are leaving for the same,” he added.

Politics of lie, says Tamang camp

Later in the evening, the spokesperson of the Tamang camp, Keshav Raj Pokhrel, alleged that Mr Gurung was still practising “politics of lies.”

“They are lies that 17 councillors joined them today. From the 32 councillors here, two have died and one resigned, making the total board members 29.” According to a message in their social media page, Mr Tamang said that in the 29 Wards here, their faction and the TMC had support of 18 councillors, while the Gurung camp and the BJP had 10.

“However, with three councillors out of station, they now have seven councillors,” the message from Mr Tamang said. added that one councillor has a case of dual citizenship against her with the matter being Sub-judice.