Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung on Wednesday announced that he will quit the National Democratic Alliance and support West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in the Assembly elections, ANI reported. West Bengal is expected to go to polls in 2021.
Gurung, who has been on the run since 2017, made an appearance outside the Gorkha Bhavan in Kolkata, according to PTI. He has been at the forefront of the movement for statehood for Gorkhas in Darjeeling.
“I’m neither a criminal nor an anti-national,” Gurung told the media, according to ANI. “I’m a political leader. I want a political settlement. I was in Delhi earlier and in Jharkhand for past 2 months.”
He said that unlike the Centre, Banerjee fulfilled the promises that she made. “So, I would like to separate myself from NDA, I would like to break our relation with BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party],” he said. “In 2021 Bengal election, we’ll forge an alliance with TMC and give a reply to BJP.”
Gurung repeated his demand for statehood. “We will take this cause forward,” he said. “It is our aim, our vision. In the 2024 election, we will support the party which will take up this cause.”
The West Bengal government has been seeking Gurung’s arrest since violence broke out in Darjeeling in June 2017 after Banerjee announced her decision to make Bengali compulsory in state-run schools. Though Banerjee had said that hill districts would be exempted from the rule, the GJM began an agitation that soon turned into a revival of the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Soon after, Gurung and a few of his aides went into hiding as the police had filed cases against them under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The party too split after the Gurung-led faction insisted on continuing the shutdown in the hills, which crippled life in the region for months.
Gurung had said in January that he was ready for talks with Banerjee and that his party was willing to negotiate and resolve the standoff with the state government and take the discussion on Gorkha identity forward.