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GNLF extends support to Bhaichung Bhutia

Posted on Apr 04 2014 | IANS

Darjeeling, April 4 : In a boost to Trinamool Congress candidate Bhaichung Bhutia's prospects for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal, the GNLF Friday announced its support for the former Indian soccer captain.

"Bhaichung belongs to the hills. We are supporting him," the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) said in statement issued on behalf of party president Subhas Ghising.

Bhutia is engaged in a tough fight for the April 17 polls in the constituency against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)-backed Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Surinder Singh Ahluwalia and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate Saman Pathak.

The GNLF spearheaded a violent movement in the 1980s, demanding that a separate state of Gorkhaland be carved out of the north Bengal hills, leading to the formation of the semi-autonomous development body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988.

Ghising was the chairman of the DGHC for two decades. However, he lost his influence in the hills after his trusted aide Bimal Gurung broke away from the GNLF in 2007 to form the GJM, which has now taken over the mantle of the Gorkhaland movement.

The GJM forced Ghising to leave the hills in 2008. He returned before the 2011 assembly polls but went away again soon after his party received a drubbing in the polls.

Ghising recently returned to the hills for the Lok Sabha polls. There was much speculation on whether he would put up a candidate or announce his support for some other party.

Trinamool leader and West Bengal cabinet minister Gautam Deb welcomed the GNLF's move.

"Bhaichung will win by a huge margin," said Deb.

On the other hand, the CPI-M said Ghising was the latest pawn in the Trinamool's "use and throw" policy.

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