Morcha 30 for Dooars campaign – Hill party eyes polls to maintain support base

The Telegraph

VIVEK CHHETRI

Bimal Gurung

Darjeeling, June 5: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today sent a team of 30 senior leaders from the hills to launch a campaign for the panchayat elections in the Dooars at a time the party was on its back foot in the plains because of the departure of hundreds of supporters and office-bearers from the outfit in recent months.

The hill party fears it will weaken further in the Dooars in the event of an electoral drubbing and wants to stem the exodus.

The Morcha is contesting the rural polls in the Dooars in alliance with John Barla-led Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, though both the parties are yet to work out the seat-sharing. The submission of nominations to contest the elections began today.

Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, said the party would start a massive campaign in the Dooars from tomorrow. “At least 30 leaders left for the Dooars today. They will start the campaign from tomorrow.”

The team has been divided into three groups to look after election preparations in eastern, central and western Dooars. Senior leaders who have been deputed to the plains include party vice-presidents, Pradip Pradhan and R.P. Waiba, elected GTA Sabha members Ramesh Lama and Jyoti Kumar Rai, and central committee members D.K. Pradhan and Diwakar Gurung.

“Leaders of the party’s youth wing and trade union have also left for the Dooars,” said Giri, who is also expected to campaign for the Morcha in the region in a few days.

Sources in the Morcha said party president Bimal Gurung, too, would be visiting the Dooars from June 9. “Our party president is expected to stay for a considerable period of time in the Dooars. He will try to attend as many public meetings as possible to canvass for the party,” said a Morcha leader.

In recent weeks, many Morcha supporters switched over to the Congress and the Trinamul Congress in the plains. The Morcha’s Dooars committee president, Padam Lama, and the party’s Kalchini MLA, Wilson Chapramari, were among those who joined Trinamul.

Morcha leaders fear a poor show by the party in the elections could deplete its support base to a large extent. “The party needs to be in power in the plains to ensure that we can look after the interest of our supporters. The election is therefore a big challenge for us. We have realised that many Morcha supporters have joined Trinamul because it is in power,” a Morcha leader said on condition of anonymity.

Observers believe the morale of the Morcha supporters is at its low in the Dooars at the moment. “The fact that the Morcha has not been able to extract any positive assurance from the authorities on the inclusion of 396 mouzas from the Dooars and Terai in the GTA has not gone down well with its supporters. Many Morcha supporters feel they have been let down after having supported the hill party throughout the four-year agitation,” said an observer.

A Morcha leader said the demand to bring the mouzas under the jurisdiction of the GTA was still on the agenda of the party. “The party will definitely be raising the mouzas issue to convey a message to our supporters in the plains that we are still concerned about them and we have not left them out in the cold.”

Trinamul hill office

Trinamul opened its first office in the hills, at Mirik, on Wednesday, said the party’s spokesperson for the hill committee, Binay Sharma. He said Trinamul was looking towards opening more offices in Kalimpong and other places in the hills.

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