The title of this comment must transcend the intrinsic connotation. The Hills are in a tizzy on the eve of the West Bengal Assembly elections. Confusion has been worse confounded as double-think runs wild in the camp helmed by Bimal Gurung of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
As much as the electorate, the Trinamul Congress is worried that while Mr Gurung ~ after severing ties with the BJP ~ has extended support to the state’s ruling party three years after he returned to Darjeeling, he has at another remove shrilled for a separate state. While this may be central to the ferment in the Hills since the mid-1980s, the GJM leader must be acutely aware that any initiative must constitutionally rest on Parliament, the state Assembly and also, of course, the fractious political class.
The grandstanding on his return and the pledge to support Trinamul cannot, therefore, be enduring. His key demand for a Gorkhaland state runs counter to the first pledge of support to the Trinamul Congress. Gurung has buttressed the demand for Gorkhaland at public meetings; latest reports from Darjeeling suggest that his party activists are no less confused over the contradictory postures. At his meetings in Siliguri and Alipurduar, he has been explicit on the point that despite his support to Trinamul, he will continue to ratchet up the demand for Gorkhaland, indeed a demand that has been consistenly opposed by Mamata Banerjee, as it was by Jyoti Basu in his dealings with Subhas Ghising in the high noon of CPI-M rule. Even as realpolitik, it can scarcely be convenient to sup with the likes of Gurung when the state’s ruling party is against Gorkhaland.
The GJM leader has his political and ethnic compulsions and cannot be expected to readily abjure the fundamental demand that has roiled the Hills for as long as it has. The crisis can only fester in the context of the fundamental discord. The state tourism minister Gautam Deb’s pledge that “all we want is to walk together so that the Dooars can develop in the midst of peace” is the consummation devoutly to be wished for, but there are red herrings across the trail. Darjeeling will have to contend with this fundamental political discord for some time yet.
It is pretty obvious that Gurung is eager to play to the ethnic gallery, even while keeping his political options suitably flexible. Significant, therefore, is the switch of loyalty from the Bharatiya Janata Party to the Trinamul Congress Even the Gorkha National Liberation Front is arguably trying to test the murky waters. A GNLF delegation is currenly in Delhi to meet Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss what they call the scope for a “permanent solution” in the Hills. That “solution” has eluded a swathe of Bengal since 1986. The prospect remains fogbound given the passing show of political loyalties and prejudices.