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GNLF without Subash Ghisingh

Subash Ghisingh
Darjeeling, Jan. 29: The already weakened Gorkha National Liberation Front, which was the most powerful party in the Darjeeling hills in the 1980s and 90s, today lost its face.

In the hills, the GNLF meant Subash Ghisingh. Ghisingh's brand of identity politics meant that there was no second leader to rival his popularity. This has put his party in dire straits now.

None of Ghisingh's three children has shown any interest in politics.

His youngest child, Mohan, was the most visible beside Ghisingh, but never actively participated in anything political even when the GNLF chief was at his prime.

Mohan, who stayed with his father at their Dr Zakir Hussain Road home in Darjeeling, is the son of Ghisingh's second wife Dhan Kumari, who died in 2008.

The elder children, Sagar and Uma - born to Ghisingh's first wife who also died - did not stay with their father.

In the party, Ghisingh snipped the wings of leaders such as Chhatrey Subba and C.K. Pradhan, who were considered locally powerful in Ghisingh's heyday.

Subba, who was accused of attacking Ghisingh but acquitted, is not active in politics. Pradhan was murdered.

In order to limit the role of leaders to a particular subdivision, Ghisingh formed GNLF branch committees for Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. The move effectively ensured that there was no party face to challenge his authority.

From 2007 onwards, as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha rose in the hills under the leadership of Bimal Gurung, who was once Ghisingh's lieutenant, the GNLF chief's clout waned.

The Morcha's official demand has been statehood, and it continues to re-iterate that position, although it also agreed to the formation of the GTA.

But Ghisingh, who had coined the word "Gorkhaland" and was synonymous with the statehood demand, fell silent about statehood in the latter part of his political career.

When the three states of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh were formed in 2000, Ghisingh did not make any political statement. He said the season was inauspicious to speak.

Today, none of the GNLF leaders would comment on the daunting challenge of forming a new line of leadership.

Party leaders said this evening that they had not yet decided where the last rites would be performed. "His son, Mohan Ghisingh, will be accompanying the body tomorrow. He will decide whether the body should be taken to Manju tea estate or to bring it to Darjeeling." Ghisingh was born in the tea estate.

It is clear that the GNLF wants to stick to Ghisingh's political guru gyan, that of demanding Sixth Schedule status for the autonomy of the Darjeeling hills. Till then, the GNLF wants the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, which was repealed after the GTA was formed in 2012, to be restored.

The GNLF leadership's greatest challenge at the moment is to convince the hill people about the benefits of the Sixth Schedule status. "We will continue to make the public aware of this demand," a middle-ranked GNLF leader said.

Ghisingh, while interacting with the media on April 22, 2011, had said: "Politics is all being in tune with desh (country), kaal (present times) and paristhiti (present situation) or else it will be a waste of time."

He had said that "apart from D.P. Rai, the hills no longer had leaders of quality".

Rai, a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), was the first hill leader to be a minister in the United Front government in Bengal.

The ABGL, too, lost its grip in the hills after Rai's death.

Ghisingh had filled Rai's vacuum. Till his death, Rai had been the undisputed leader in the hills. Ghisingh's death could also be the last nail for the GNLF.

His party colleagues used to say that he had thought of demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland during his stint in Nagaland while serving in the army.

Ghisingh had said that he missed being "Subash" the writer. "I am a writer first. I came into politics after seeing that the politicians then were doing no good to the community. I was a driver trying to guide the bus for want of a proper driver." Ghisingh had said in 2011.

Of late, GNLF leaders and supporters have been trying to regain their base in the hills but could not come out of the Ghisingh's shadow.


The Telegraph

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