Quit speech catches Morcha unawares

Darjeeling, Feb. 6: GTA Sabha chief executive Bimal Gurung had not consulted even senior leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha before announcing his decision to quit the post at a meeting here on Monday, revealed insiders in the party.

The senior leaders said they were in the dark about Gurung's intention and were stunned by his announcement at the meeting of the leaders of the Morcha's subdivisional, block and village committees.

A senior Morcha leader, who is considered one of the most trusted lieutenants of Gurung in the party, said: "The announcement has definitely stunned the entire leadership. The only occasion when he had casually broached the resignation issue was at a meeting at Jamuni held a day before Mamata Banerjee came to Darjeeling (to inaugurate the Uttarbanga Ustav at Chowrastha)."

The main agenda of the meeting was to discuss whether the Morcha should take part in the inaugural function on January 29.

"He was angry that he hadn't been informed about the programme and other events like the distribution of land deeds by the chief minister on the day. Angry over the interference of state government in departments transferred to the GTA Sabha, he had casually said one option to register the protest was to resign from the chief executive's post," said another Morcha leader.

However, the resignation part was not taken seriously by any leader present at the meeting, as the main agenda of the discussion was the Morcha's participation in the Chowrastha event.

"The resignation part was not discussed at all as state minister Gautam Deb had called up Gurung and assured him that Mamata wouldn't speak on the sensitive issue of Gorkhaland at the event. Things seem to have been sorted out then," said the leader.

Many leaders feel Gurung seemed to have resolved to resign when Mamata declared at Chowrastha that Darjeeling was part of Bengal.

"One can say the resignation issue had been mentioned earlier by our leader but it was not discussed in detail, including the ramifications of such a move," the Morcha leader added.

Observers say they are not surprised by the absence of any discussion in the Morcha ahead of Gurung's announcement yesterday.

"This is how he (Gurung) works. For that matter, all parties with a single leader lack a coherent structure and function in this way," said an observer.

Even though Gurung will still be in control of the GTA Sabha after his resignation, many in the administration believe the functioning of the autonomous administration will be hampered.

"At the moment, Gurung is the man who takes all decisions. Certain decisions need to be taken at the very moment. A new chief executive will not have the audacity to do anything without Gurung's approval and the functioning of the GTA could be hampered," said a GTA official on condition of anonymity.

Even the GTA Sabha members echoed the official's fear.

Most in the party are unsure about the next development. Many leaders are also unsure whether other hill parties will attend an all-party meeting called by Gurung on Thursday to discuss the Gorkhaland agitation.

Taramani Rai, the general secretary of the CPRM, said: " At one end, the Morcha decides to call a meeting but at the other end, even before the meeting, they arrive at a decision."

Rai was referring to Gurung's statement on Monday that each party should send at least 500 supporters to New Delhi to take part in a dharna.

'It is also difficult to believe a leader who still occupies a government chair is talking about taking on the government," said Rai.

Pratap Khati, the general secretary of the ABGL, had already said his party would not take part in the meeting unless the memorandum of agreement for the formation of the GTA Sabha was cancelled and all 45 GTA Sabha members resigned.