The BJP has been working hard to increase its support base as the West Bengal election approaches. And amid its push for reaching voters during Durga Puja, it faced a setback in north Bengal with Bimal Gurung, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader, severing ties with the BJP.
Gurung has been on the run since 2017 and is wanted for several cases including his involvement in the massive Gorkhaland agitations that year and his alleged role in the murder of a policeman.
Reports say Gurung resurfaced in Kolkata after three years on Wednesday evening and said in an impromptu press conference that he was severing ties with the BJP.
The Times of India quoted him as saying, “We were part of the NDA and made several pleas to the central government to hasten the process. In the past six years, neither PM Narendra Modi nor home minister Amit Shah kept their commitment. They have not even granted tribal status to the 11 communities in the hills despite the state government giving its nod.... We will now work hard to help Mamata Banerjee win the 2021 state assembly polls. That will be a befitting reply to BJP.”
During the agitations in 2017, the GJM had split, with Gurung’s faction offering support to the NDA and the Binoy Tamang-led faction supporting the Trinamool Congress and the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal.
The TMC and Banerjee are against a separate Gorkhaland state, which is the demand of the GJM.
However, Gurung said that he would support Banerjee for the 2021 elections.
The Telegraph quoted him as saying, “While I was sitting back for the past three years, I saw Mamata Banerjee meet whatever commitments she had made to the people. We have decided that in the Assembly elections of 2021, we will stand with her and Trinamool. She is an idol and we want to see her again in her post (of chief minister).”
The party had reportedly been in touch with TMC for a month.
The TMC, meanwhile, welcomed Gurung’s support and said on Twitter, “We welcome Bimal Gurung’s commitment to peace & decision to withdraw support from NDA while reposing faith in @MamataOfficial’s leadership. BJP’s attempts to use Gorkhaland issue for petty politics & their untrustworthy nature now lay fully exposed before people of Bengal.”
This comes two weeks after the Narendra Modi government called for tripartite talks on Gorkhaland. The call for the meet had riled up the Banerjee government and even the Opposition in West Bengal.
While the Tamang-led faction had said it was an issue that made an appearance only during elections, the Gurung-led faction of the GJM claimed that this was not about the Gorkhaland issue but about the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
The GTA is an autonomous body in the hills led by the Tamang-led faction, which backs the TMC.