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Gorkha Janmukti Morcha MLAs to occupy opposition Bench

Darjeeling : The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s ‘victory’ in the Lok Sabha election as a consequence of its support to the BJP is set to pursue its grudge with the Trinamool Congress in the state assembly as the leadership has directed its three MLAs to occupy the Opposition benches. The decision was taken in a party meeting in Darjeeling in consultation with GJM central committee, sub-divisional and study forum members including the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration sabhasads and the four municipality chairmen. Before leaving for Delhi on an invitation by the NDA to attend an emergency meeting scheduled Tuesday, GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang said, “Over the past one year, the TMC has been treating us as rivals in spite of an alliance being in place. Our MLAs had been sitting in the Treasury benches of the state assembly as a goodwill gesture. Now, occupying the opposition benches is a symbolic message to express our disappointment with the complacent attitude of the state government towards us”. 

The GJM legislators are Dr Harka Bahadur Chhetri from Kalimpong, Trilok Dewan from Darjeeling and Rohit Sharma who represents Kurseong sub-division. Ties between the GJM and TMC have kept oscillating between “good and bad” since the past one year. The latest round of statehood agitation was a major factor and things went sourer during the Lok Sabha election. The GJM refused to support Bhaichung Bhutia, who was nominated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee as the TMC candidate from Darjeeling constituency, claiming the Morcha leadership was not taken into confidence over the matter. During the height of the second round of agitation for statehood in August-September 2013, the GJM had threatened it would ask the three MLAs to sit in the opposition citing the excesses of the state government. The party also faxed its decision to the speaker of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. Taking stern measures against the statehood agitators, the state government arrested more than 2,000 GJM activists including GTA sabhasads. 
However, the GJM soon suspended its agitation after coming to a mutual understanding with the state government. Party sources have said the decision to sit in the opposition is due to the GJM’s renewed alliance with the BJP. “It is politically right to take a decision to occupy the opposition benches. We do have an alliance with the BJP and the latter is also the TMC’s main rival in the state. 

Therefore, it will not be right for our MLAs to sit in the Treasury bench,” one of the sources reasoned. The five-member GJM delegation to Delhi is being led by party chief Bimal Gurung and includes general secretary Roshan Giri and central committee leaders Jyoti Kumar Rai and Swaraj Thapa. They will attend the oath taking ceremony of Surendra Singh Ahluwalia, the BJP vice-president who has been elected from Darjeeling constituency after winning by nearly 2 lakh votes over Bhutia. “We were invited over phone today by NDA leaders to attend an emergency meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon in Delhi,” informed Tamang. The GJM is hopeful of Ahluwalia being given a cabinet portfolio as this add more impetus to the statehood demand in Parliament, more so because the saffron front had included the issue in its election manifesto. “We are an ally and being officially invited to the NDA meeting does imply our views may be sought for a number of decisions, one of them being a cabinet portfolio for our MP. We are hopeful Ahluwalia will be given an important berth given his stature in the party,” said the GJM assistant secretary. The GJM team will halt for the night in Kolkata and board the first flight to Delhi Tuesday for the NDA meeting scheduled at 2pm in the afternoon.
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