Senior leaders of the party said they would make the merger issue the main election agenda, which is in sharp contrast to the almost customary compulsion of other political parties of making either the demand for a Gorkhaland state or development their principal pursuits.
Formed in 2004, the GRC has made the merger of Darjeeling with Sikkim its sole issue, and has taken up this demand with the Centre over the years. “We will field candidates from the Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Siliguri assembly constituencies,” said GRC convener Subodh Pakhrin. “Our election agenda will remain the merger of Darjeeling with Sikkim as the Darjeeling hills were never a part of Bengal. We believe a merger to be the only plausible solution for the Darjeeling hills.”
Aiming to strike a chord with the popular imagination in the hills, the GRC also intends to make the merger issue a ‘demonstrative’ movement. “Bengal cannot give a Gorkhaland state because Darjeeling was never its part. Therefore, if we win we will go to the Sikkim assembly instead of Bengal. In a way this election will be a demonstrative one for us,” Pakhrin said.
|Gorkha Rashtriya Congress to field candidates with Darjeeling-Sikkim merger issue as agenda|
Arguing in favour of the merger issue, GRC working president Lepcha said, “Till now 27 MLAs from the hills and 15 from Siliguri have been sent to the Vidhan Sabha. But the problems plaguing the hills have yet to be addressed or solved. We believe the West Bengal state assembly can fulfill nothing for us. There are several methods of opposing and hence we have decided that even if we go on to win, we will neither sit in Bengal’s Vidhan Sabha nor take from it our salaries and pensions. We will disclose later as to how we plan to sit in the Sikkim assembly.”
The GRC will be contesting for the first time in the state Assembly election. The party had fielded a candidate in the Lok Sabha election in 2014, though.