Will Ghisingh be kingmaker if not king?

Sometime in the late ’90s, at the pinnacle of his power, Subhash Ghisingh, the man who transformed peaceful but rudderless Darjeeling into a bloody hotspot that looked violently for a separate state of Gorkhaland, decided that Maa Durga should have 18 not 8 hands. All the idols that came from Siliguri suddenly sprouted nearly 20 hands, each of her extra limbs clutching fiercer weapons.

Ghisingh, after years on the periphery of Darjeeling, returned quietly on March 19 to shouts of 'GNLF zindabad'.
Ghisingh, after years on the periphery of Darjeeling, returned
quietly on March 19 to shouts of ‘GNLF zindabad’.

There was more to come. Gautam Buddha, he announced, was 18 feet tall and each of his ears weighed 10 kgs. “The earth was formed on June 20,” he once said, without either care or concern for Darwin. “And in 15 years there won’t be any mosquitoes in the world.” And, of course, most of the men and women in the hills could trace their roots to Ukraine.

People were bewildered, but they took everything in their stride. He was, after all, the man who had given them voice and identity. Then in 2007, he did something the hills never forgave him for. Ghisingh refused to support a singer called Prashant Tamang, who was fighting to be winner of the reality show called Indian Idol.

Ghisingh’s downfall started almost immediately. Bimal Gurung, then one of his henchmen, began his bizarre ride to glory first with a Prashant Tamang fan club and then, when the singer won, with an emboldened Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

By the time Ghisingh finally relinquished power, all that the former soldier of the elite 8th Gorkha Rifles was left with was a legacy of eccentricities, a long list of corruption charges, horrifying tales of excesses and, as his cohorts say, a severe bout of diarrhoea.

Ghisingh was soon literally thrown out of Darjeeling in July 2008. Living in Jalpaiguri, so complete was his defeat that when his beloved wife Dhan Kumari died in August that year, he couldn’t even bring back her body, as per her last wish, for cremation to Darjeeling.

But history has turned around. Ghisingh, after years on the periphery of Darjeeling, returned quietly on March 19 to shouts of ‘GNLF zindabad’, the tentative welcome coinciding with the steep decline of Bimal Gurung in the intervening years. Ghisingh has now said he will announce his support on March 30 for any of the main contenders in these elections to the Darjeeling seat. It could be the BJP’s SS Ahluwalia, TMC’s Baichung Bhutia or Mahendra Lama, a strong independent candidate. Most believe that call will change the fortunes of these parties.

“Whoever Ghisingh finally decides to go with will have a huge edge,” concedes Lama, even as some others dismiss the former’s influence.

A senior leader with the GNLF feels that the frustration with Gurung is in large parts responsible for Ghisingh’s “comeback.” When Gurung came back as the Gorkha Territorial Administration chief in December last year after relinquishing his position five months ago in the name of Gorkhaland, he lost a fair bit of his sheen. An intense exodus of his leaders to the TMC has only compounded matters for him.

So will Ghisingh be kingmaker if not king? Perhaps Ma Durga with her 18 hands has an answer to that.

Source: timesofindia

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