A day after Morcha leader Bimal Gurung made a dramatic appearance after three years of hiding and swore allegiance to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, top administrative officials and intellectuals today said that the authority of the West Bengal Police was undermined when Mr Gurung, a “proclaimed offender” was allowed to hold a Press Conference in a hotel in the state Capital of Kolkata last evening.

According to them, the CM would have done better to not join hands with Mr Gurung and to arrest him.

“Being the chief minister of West Bengal, had Mamata Banerjee instructed the Police Commissioner to arrest Bimal Gurung from Salt Lake without compromising on anything, her political efficacy, administrative acumen and caliber would have gone far more brighter, and ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections, her position would have been more secured,” former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pankaj Datta said.

“Had the police arrested Bimal Gurung even during the Press Conference, the police department’s glamour would have been saved. The developments yesterday have established the fact that she has compromised with a petty political leader whose stature is nowhere near Gorkha leader, the late Subash Ghisingh,” Mr Datta said over the phone.

“The West Bengal police department has already lost its glory. Police should have arrested Gurung and produced him in the court today,” the former IGP said.

People in the Hills and the Plains have now started criticising the role of the ruling Trinamul Congress on the Darjeeling Hill issue.

Recalling the violence that took place during Miss Banerjee’s Cabinet meeting in Darjeeling in 2017, a group of intellectuals today discussed that police had to open fire, killing several Darjeeling youths, while the administration had to call in the Army and Miss Banerjee had to go down to Bagdogra with the help of Army after the Hill erupted, as Mr Gurung was against her.

“After the death of a police officer, Amitava Mallick, during an operation against Bimal Gurung (in 2017), the Trinamul Congress government earned huge Bengali sympathy across the state. The CM was successful as she took the decision to ‘eliminate’ Gurung and his political career. But the entire ‘drama’, by showcasing the death of Amitava Mallick, has backfired today, and the ‘drama’ misled the people and played with their emotions,” said a political observer, associated with the state administration.

It may be mentioned here that the police desperately tried to take action, but failed to track down Mr Gurung back then. The police managed arrest warrants from the court, while his property was attached, and the court even branded him a “proclaimed offender.” At least 131 cases have been framed against Mr Gurung, including some under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), while the state branded him a traitor.

An intellectual, who watched police inaction when Mr Gurung appeared at the Gorkha Bhawan in Kolkata yesterday, said: “The question now is how the Judiciary will react and how it will believe the police.”

Former MLA from Kalimpong and Jan Andolan Party leader, Harka Bahadur Chettri, who was once close to Mr Gurung, however, said people should not draw conclusions right now.

“Bimal did not have an option as he understood that the BJP would not be able to do anything for him, as law and order is a state subject. As a result, he had to strike a deal with the state for his personal safety and return home. It was difficult to manage bail from the legal point of view,” Mr Chettri said.

“But the question is, what will Bimal tell the people and how will he be able to keep his support base intact when a certain percentage of his support has already eroded. Now, the way for his comeback in politics is very tough,” he added.

According to another Darjeeling district-based observer, around 75 percent of the Hill people have already started criticising Mr Gurung for “surrendering” before Mamata Banerjee.

“Bimal is now a liability in the political arena. The Morcha’s Binoy Tamang faction may be a decisive factor, when GNLF leaders, keeping a close watch on the present developments with an escape route, expect more changes in the political equation in the Hills soon,” he said.

A Kolkata-based journalist, who recently retired from a daily newspaper, said the CM has sent a message that she is the last word. “But in the question of benefit, Bimal is now simply a liability. BJP has gained at present as it has now thrown the Gorkhaland ball in the TMC’s court. It is a blessing in disguise for the BJP. We cannot rule out if Bimal’s return is BJP’s game plan to have him return home in the Hills,” he said.

“My reading is that Mamata Banerjee just surrendered before Bimal Gurung just to ensure a few seats in North Bengal region, but he cannot be used politically,” a senior journalist, who covers Nabanna, said, adding, “The chief minister is now responsible for explaining the reason behind Gurung’s return.”

“How miserable she is politically, that she needs help from a traitor for votes and to retain power,” he said