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Darjeeling shows how politics does indeed make strange bedfellows

Darjeeling shows how politics does indeed make strange bedfellows

Kolkata, Jan 8 (SocialNews.XYZ) The politics in the hills of Darjeeling in North Bengal is once again proving that "politics makes strange bedfellows". The trend has all the elements of a drama where friends are becoming enemies, enemies becoming friends and the resurrection of old friendships.

What is even more interesting is that this new trend in hill politics evolved within a little over a month, with the drama unfolding in the closing days of November last year and completing the full circle by December end.


In November 24 last year, a change of guard in Darjeeling Municipality became inevitable after six elected representatives from the Ajay Edwards-founded Hamro Party's board shifted to the opposition Anit Thapa-led Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) and Trinamool Congress alliance.

As a result, just within eight months of taking control of the board in February last year by bagging 18 out of 32 wards, the Hamro Party-controlled board turned into a minority. A no- confidence motion was moved and Ajay Edwards made a futile attempt to block the motion by approaching the Calcutta High Court.

Finally on December 28 last year, the change of guard in the hill civic body happened on the expected lines with the BGPM-Trinamool Congress alliance taking control of the board. Dipen Thakuri, one of the six defecting Hamro Party councillors, was appointed the new chairman of Darjeeling Municipality.

Hours after that development, Binoy Tamang announced his decision to sever ties with the Trinamool Congress and also alleged that the Trinamool Congress betrayed the people of the hills. Tamang, a former chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), was initially a close confidant of Gurung in the GJM. However, at a later stage the two leaders fell out and Tamang joined the Trinamool.

Coinciding with that development on December 27, that is a day before the change of guards in Darjeeling Municipality, speculation over fresh political equations in the Darjeeling Hills became rife after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's Bimal Gurung, Ajay Edwards and Binoy Tamang were seen sharing the same dais at a public rally in Darjeeling town. All the three claimed that they have united to save democracy in the hills.

The fresh equations turned a full circle at a late night meeting on Friday between Bimal Gurung and BJP Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling, Raju Bista. After the meeting some loaded statements by both Gurung and Bista gave rise to speculation that Gurung was trying to revive his old ties with the saffron camp and thus give his newly formed alliance with Edwards and Tamang the backing of a national party like the BJP.

After remaining underground for a long time, Gurung returned to the hills soon after the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections severing his ties with the BJP and expressing solidarity with the Trinamool Congress and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. However, for quite some time he remained inactive in hill politics until his latest moves since December last year.

According to Nirmalya Banerjee, an expert on north Bengal and northeastern India politics, in the present power struggle in the hills the emergence of the new political equation was inevitable, both for the Gurung-Edwards-Tamang trio as well as for the BJP.

"We all know how desperate the BJP is to retain the 18 Lok Sabha seats that it had won in West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, out of which the most important is Darjeeling which had been retained by the saffron camp since the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP understands very well that without the active backing of grassroots-level political forces in the hills, they will not be able to retain Darjeeling. Now for the BJP, any understanding with Anit Thapa's BGPM is out of the question considering that Thapa, who is the current chief of the GTA, is having a strong bonding with the Trinamool Congress. As of now there is no indication of differences between the Trinamool Congress and the BGPM considering both have together taken control of Darjeeling Municipality. So, for the BJP now the natural choice is the Gurung-Edwards-Tamang trio, since all have substantial influence among the hill voters," Banerjee explained.

On the other hand, he said, Gurung's expression of solidarity with Mamata Banerjee after the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls, was to pave the way for his return to the hills from his long underground stint. "But that move made him politically insignificant in the hills for quite some time. In this situation, he is trying to regain his relevance first by forging an alliance with Edward and Tamang and then by attempting to give this triangular alliance the backing of a national party like the BJP," Banerjee said.

As of Edwards, Banerjee added he well understands that on his own he will not be able to fight the joint front of the BGPM and the Trinamool Congress and hence having an alliance with Gurung and Tamang has become his compulsion.

"Finally, as regards Tamang, he joined the Trinamool Congress severing his ties with Gurung with the hope of being the controller of hill politics with the backing of Mamata Banerjee. But that space was occupied by Anit Thapa, who was once Tamang's man-Friday after the latter severed ties with Gurung earlier. So, it is now natural for Tamang to regain his old friendship with the GJM along with the Hamro Party," Banerjee stated.

Source: IANS

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Darjeeling shows how politics does indeed make strange bedfellows

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