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'Giving last chance to BJP': GJM chief Bimal Gurung extends support to saffron party in polls

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Kolkata, Mar 31 (PTI) Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung on Sunday announced that his party will support the BJP candidate for Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, Raju Bista, while asserting he was "giving the last chance to the saffron party in the interest of democracy".

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Addressing a press conference in Darjeeling, he said there are several unresolved issues regarding the "dreams, aspirations and sentiments" of Gorkhas and other ethnic groups of the hills, and after prolonged talks with GJM members and residents of the hills, the party has decided to support Bista, who is seeking re-election from the seat.

"In the interest of democracy, we want to give one last chance to the BJP, although there is a lot of pain still in the hearts of the people of the hills. There is a long chasm between what can be done and what has been done. The issue of the identity of Gorkhas and all other ethnic communities in the hills, their sentiments and emotions cannot be wished away," he told reporters in Darjeeling.

Bista and Gurung had recently held long discussions.

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The GJM founder said that people from different communities will assemble in Darjeeling town on the day Bista files his nomination and accompany him to the nomination centre.

Welcoming the GJM leader's decision, BJP MLA from Siliguri, Shankar Ghosh told PTI over the phone that his party will always remain on the side of the residents of the hills and hoped that the process of resolving their issue will be finalised soon.

"We understand the sentiments of the people of the hills but it will take time to resolve their long-standing demand. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the Centre respects the emotions of the hills and will be able to arrive at a final decision," he added.

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The BJP has been winning the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat since 2009.

Darjeeling has witnessed several bouts of agitation demanding a separate Gorkhaland state and implementation of the Sixth Schedule.

While the demand for Gorkhaland dates back over a century, the statehood movement gained momentum in 1986 under Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader Subhash Ghisingh.

The movement resulted in numerous deaths and culminated in 1988 with the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. The region witnessed several bouts of violent agitations thereafter, with the latest being a 104-day-long shutdown in 2017.

GJM had been a part of the NDA but quit the alliance in 2020 and allied with the TMC for the 2021 assembly polls. However, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) chief executive Anit Thapa-led BGPM (Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha), which swept last year's panchayat elections in the hills, has grown close to the TMC, causing discomfiture to Gurung. PTI SUS ACD

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