Kolkata: A month ahead of elections to the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA)—the semi-autonomous administrative body for the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts in the hills of West Bengal—chief minister Mamata Banerjee launched a scathing attack on the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), saying that the party was trying to drive a wedge between the Gorkhas and non-Gorkhas to stay afloat.
Banerjee launched a counter offensive at a time the GJM is trying to rally support in the hills for a movement against compulsory teaching of Bengali at all schools till class-X. Recently, the state ordered that Bengali must be taught at all schools in the state though students need not sit a test in class-X. Banerjee clarified last week that it was expected that students in the state would learn Bengali.
Speaking at a rally in Mirik on Monday, Banerjee said the issue was being used by the GJM to create a rift between the Gorkhas and non-Gorkhas in the hills of the state. “We were the first to give due recognition to the Nepali language," she said. Give the Trinamool Congress (TMC) an opportunity to work in the hills because the GJM has failed to deliver on its promise of development, Banerjee added.
In the last election to the GTA held in 2012, the GJM had won all the 45 seats, many unopposed. But this time, the Trinamool Congress is looking to make inroads into the GJM’s bastion. In the recently held civic body elections, the Trinamool Congress candidates were elected to run the Mirik municipality—a sign of cracks starting to appear in the GJM’s hegemony in the hills.
Launching the Trinamool Congress’s campaign for the GTA election, Banerjee said the GJM has traditionally supported people from outside to represent the local people in the Parliament in a direct reference to the party’s support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in general elections. In contrast, the Trinamool Congress has fielded Shanta Chhetri, a native of Kurseong, as the party’s candidate for the Rajya Sabha, Banerjee added.