TV show Indian Idol was aimed to boost singing talent in the country. But the show also helped Bimal Gurung to become the top leader of Darjeeling, the picturesque hill station in Eastern India.
As local lad Prashant Tamang moved towards the final rounds of Indian Idol, Gurung saw a chance to evoke local sentiments to raise his political position. He started collecting donations from the villagers, shops and other commercial establishment to raise funds to send SMSs favouring Tamang. The singer won the contest and Gurung became a bigger leader with larger ambitions.
His agitations have turned the tourist destination into a turbulent spot during its peak season, robbing the local business of its main source of revenue. But, as he renewed efforts to create a separate Gorkhaland, sending the state and the Central government into a jitty, the people of Darjeeling and the adjoining plains fear they might have to revisit the dark days of the original Gorkhaland movement.
Subhas Ghising, an ex-serviceman and a Nepali poet who used to sell his poems to the tourists in the mall, was the man behind the first movement and also the one to induct Gurung in the biggest political brand of the hills — Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF). When Rudra Pradhan, a local councillor was killed, the seat was contested by Gurung and Kishore Gurung. Ghising kept his options open and declared that whoever wins, will be adopted in GNLF. Gurung came in.
Although he served under Ghising, the then hero of the region, Gurung never found his place in his close circles as his constituency remained deprived of funds and development from the Ghising-led local hill council. He also feared that if the 6th Schedule was implemented, his hold over his area would erode. According to an IAS officer who served a long stint in the hills, the sense of deprivation always fuelled the fire in Gurung's heart.
But the CPI(M)-led state government is also to be blamed for the current problem. The CPI(M) never liked Ghising and constantly tried to promote his rivals to disturb him. The comrades promoted Gorkha Liberation Organisation, under the leadership of Chhatre Subba, to oppose the GNLF. Subba finally found his place in jail on the charge of attempts to kill Ghising.
For the last two-three years, after Ghising refused to hold council elections, the CPI(M) has tried to create another rival. This time, it is the turn of Gurung, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader. He was a member of the action squad— The Mastan Bahini—during the Gorkhaland movement. Gurung didn't receive much education but was always a daring leader.
Although the CPI(M)-led state government shared a bitter relationship with Ghising, analysts point out that dealing with Gurung may become a worse experience for the CPI(M) than Ghising. Ghising had ceased to be a separatist but Gurung has started his new innings demanding a separate Gorkhaland.
Now, the agitation has grown so fast that it is now difficult even for its leaders to tone down as public backlash might write off their political future. Analysts believe, Gurung needs some more time which will perhaps create a new set of conditions to diffuse the tension in Darjeeling.
Although Gurung has joined hands with erstwhile rivals like Roshan Giri, the All Gorkha Students Union president, he has no interlocutors for back-channel talks. In a movement, there are leaders who are the face of the agitation and lead the mass in the streets. But at the same time, some representatives are always present to deal with the back-channel communications with the government establishment. "The current situation will also test Gurung on organisational unity and, more importantly, how long his leadership can retain control in this type of a volatile situation based on a totally emotive issue", observes an administrator. How much more the Central and the state government can give to Gurung, is also a big question.
6 months ago