Kolkata: The West Bengal government has withdrawn over 79 cases against absconding Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung, who surfaced recently in a Kolkata hotel with police protection.
The decision to withdraw the cases against Gurung, who leads one faction of the GJM, by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government comes days before the election model code of conduct kicks in before the announcement of the Assembly elections.
The cases against Gurung, include rioting in the hills on June 8, destruction of government property in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and in Bhanubhakta Bhawan. Another case pertains to the alleged murder of top cop Amitava Malik in.
The West Bengal Police and Kolkata Police had constituted a special task force to nab Gurung during the past three years when he was politically aligned to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. He was declared an offender.
However, last October, Gurung appeared in Kolkata and declared that Mamata Banerjee was his idol and that his faction of GJM would fight the election in alliance with TMC, as he wanted to see her take over as Chief Minister for the third time.
After that, Gurung had been staying in Siliguri under police protection only to return to the hills later. He has also declared that all the seats in the hills will go to TMC.
As per reports, Solicitor Pranai Rai, appearing for the state government in Siliguri court, had appealed for withdrawal of cases against Gurung and till today more than 79 cases against him have been withdrawn. Cases lodged under the Unlawful Activties Prevention Act or UAPA have so far not been withdrawn due to legal complications but are under active consideration, said sources.
Meanwhile, Siliguri Mayor and CPI(M) MLA Ashok Bhattacharya has condemned the way justice was being “twisted” and flayed the manner in which the Chief Minister has entered into an agreement with “forces who want to divide the state on racial lines”.
“Mamata Banerjee is not running the police and administration on a non-partisan scale”, he said.
Bhattacharya cautioned that going into alliance with forces whose main agenda is a separate Gorkhaland would not be good for the state. It may be recalled that in the past three years, the police has failed to chargesheet Gurung and other GJM leaders, hence, the cases against them are already weak before the court.
This “travesty of justice” on political lines has shocked many political parties in the hills, including GJM (Anit Thapa) factions and Gorkha National Liberation Front.
“You can get police protection even after being involved in murders” both the parties said. Some of Gurung’s “henchmen” had recently rejoined BJP after which the hasty decision to withdrew cases against Gurung was taken, they alleged.
It may be recalled that GJM, which once held sway among the Nepali-speaking population of the hills, has seen a considerable decline in its support base as some key leaders have left the party and distanced themselves from politics.
Earlier, GJM had considerable support in about 10 Assembly seats spread across hills, Terai and Dooars. But, now Gurung has to move with police support, pointed out Tapas Sarkar Sabhadipati of Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad, which has a considerable Nepali-speaking population in its territorial limits. “In this election, the Gurung factor won’t be major even in the hills” he said.
It may be recalled that earlier, while the GJM Anit Thapa faction was with TMC, the Binay Tamang faction was with BJP and the sole Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat was won by BJP with support from the Tamang faction.
The pro-Gorkhaland parties had earlier constituted fronts which have weakened now due to inter-rivalry. Right now, too, Tamang and GJM’s former supremo Gurung are at loggerheads. Also, Sunday’s sojourn offered by the state government to Gurung has peeved the Thapa faction.
Amidst all this, it will be difficult for Gurung to get on to the earlier pedestal that he enjoyed, say some political observers.
An indication of this was Gurung’s programme of “One rally each day”, which, after the first day mega show, are drawing miniscule attendance and has been stopped due to poor crowd support “ Sarkar pointed out .
These factors have perturbed TMC as well as Gurung who are banking on the Gurung factor to win over 10 crucial Assembly segment.