A day after ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) decided to field ace footballer Baichung Bhutia from Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) today ruled out supporting him, triggering a difference between the two parties after the recent bonhomie.
"We will not support Baichung Bhutia. We will sit, discuss and decide our stand," GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told PTI when asked whether the party would field their own candidate or support a BJP candidate for the seat as it did in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
Opposing Bhutia's candidature, GJM MLA from Kalimpong Harka Bahadur Chetri told PTI "I think those who supported his (Bhutia's) candidature did not brief Madam (TMC chief Mamata Banerjee) properly". "He is from Sikkim and they do not know about the political equation between Darjeeling and Sikkim", he said, adding it was the GJM's stand that first, Baichung is not a resident of the Hills and second, he is a footballer and not a politician. "We gave support to Jaswant Singh last time because of his stature as politician. Baichung has no standing in the Hills politics."
There was an apparent bonhomie between the state government and the GJM after the latter called off an indefinite strike in the Hills last year and joined the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. The GJM supported the TMC in the Rajya Sabha elections on February 7.
Backed by the GJM, which is a dominant force in the Hills, BJP leader Jaswant Singh won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in 2009.
Bhutia, the former India football captain who was visible in the recent programmes of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the Hills, has said "Being a Sikkimese, I am from the Hills too and we are all brothers. My aim is to bring peace to the Hills and development. I hope the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supports us." The TMC leader and North Bengal Development minister Gautam Deb said "Our party chief wanted to give representation to people from all fields and Bhutia is one of them. We hope the GJM supports him. "We are confident of winning the seat", Deb said.