West Bengal: Former GTA chairman Binay Tamang joins TMC

News Desk: Two prominent leaders from the Darjeeling hills, among them former chairman of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Binay Tamang, on Friday joined the TMC.

Mr. Tamang is one of the crucial leaders from the hills who resigned from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) about six months ago. Along with Mr. Tamang, Rohit Sharma, a former GJM MLA who represented Kurseong from 2011 to 2021, also joined the State’s ruling party.

The development assumes significance as the TMC did not have a strong presence in the Darjeeling hills, like it does in the rest of the State. The people of the hills have supported parties like the GJM and have been electing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs to the Lok Sabha over the past three terms. The State’s Cabinet Ministers Moloy Ghatak and Bratya Basu, who welcomed the two hill leaders to the party, said that the TMC will be strengthened by them.

The development comes ahead of elections to the GTA, a regional autonomous body in the Darjeeling hills that was set up in 2011.

In the months preceding the State’s Assembly polls the Darjeeling hills witnessed considerable political activity, including the return of GJM founder Bimal Gurung, who had been in hiding after a 100-day economic blockade and violence in 2017. After his return to hills, Mr. Gurung vowed support to the Trinamool Congress. However, out of the three seats of the Darjeeling hills (Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong) the TMC failed to win a single seat.

After joining the TMC, Mr. Tamang said that the BJP had been fooling the people of the hills by “dangling the lollipop of Gorkhaland”. The demand for Gorkhaland, a separate State carved out of the Darjeeling hills and certain areas in the foothills, has been at the centre of politics in the hills since the 1980s.

Referring to the 100-day strike, economic blockade and violence in the hills in 2017, Mr. Tamang said that he had risked his life for the restoration of peace in the region.

“There is peace in the hills and the entire north Bengal now. You won’t get vacant hotels in Darjeeling even in the winters…There is need for development in the hills, in health, education and tourism, and that can be achieved under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee” Mr. Tamang said. The hill leader has been considered close to the TMC since 2017, when he decided to join talks with the West Bengal government for the restoration of normalcy in the region.

Leaders from the hills like Roshan Giri and Anit Thapa said that Mr. Tamang’s decision to join the TMC was a personal matter and wished him well in his new political innings.

Leader of the Opposition and BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari said that the departures from his party would not have any impact on politics in the hills and that the people of Darjeeling would support the BJP in the future.