Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress’s target is clear - North Bengal. While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the region last week, TMC National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee, too, visited the area for a day.
Mamata attended the Gorkha Territorial Administration’s (GTA) oath-taking ceremony. This was Mamata's third North Bengal visit in the past four months. Meanwhile, Abhishek will address a political rally in North Bengal, on the occasion of Martyrs’ Day on July 21. This time, after two years, the event will be grand and the focus will be on bringing more people from North Bengal.
The GTA was formed after Mamata gave more power to the Gorkhas. The Centre, State and Gorkha Janamukthi Morcha together signed a treaty. Bimal Gurung was then on board. Later, he had differences with the government and 2017 saw violent movement in Darjeeling under his leadership.
In 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party won the MP seat in the hills. As nothing concrete happened, Gurung came back and sided with the TMC before 2021. The TMC government initiated the GTA elections and gave more power to regional parties. Gurung started to lose ground. Mamata declared GTA elections and former Gurung aid Anit Thapa, who started his own party, won the polls.
Thapa’s party Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) is set to form the board at the 45-member Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). While the ruling TMC party has grabbed five seats in the GTA polls, Independents won five seats. This is the first time since the formation of the GTA in 2012 that the TMC has managed to win any seat.
Political experts say Mamata's presence at the GTA oath-taking is important as she will now project that it’s their own home parties which rule Darjeeling. Party insiders say Mamata wants only locals to represent the hills and will offer TMC government’s support to them. This way, she will make the road tough for the BJP in 2024. In other three districts and Siliguri, the TMC feels they have revived the party and local body election result is proof of that.
The TMC won 320 of the 462 seats in 22 gram panchayats in the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad elections. The BJP won 86 seats, the Congress 21 and the CPI(M) 15. In Jalpaiguri, Coochbihar and Alipurduar, the TMC will look to add to the pressure with Abhishek’s rally.
The BJP, on the other hand, has MP and MLAs there. Union minister Amit Shah had held a ‘sabha’ in Siliguri. Although the BJP is trying to keep pace and raising the issue of separate state, the TMC is going the other way, making North Bengal the new Kurukshetra between the two parties ahead of next year’s panchayat elections, say experts.