Gangtok: How many people outside Sikkim know of BB Gooroong? Not many. But BB Gooroong’s name will forever be etched in Sikkim’s history, and to understand why all we need to do is reflect on his rather-eventful life and his mere 13-day reign (May 11-May 24, 1984) as the state’s chief minister.
On March 28, BB Gooroong breathed his last at the age of 93. Born on October 11, 1929, at Chakung, West Sikkim, Gooroong matriculated from St. Robert’s School, Darjeeling in British India and graduated from the University of Calcutta. He was not even 18 when India gained Independence.
He served as a teacher from 1953 to 1955 and a staff reporter in a Calcutta-based newspaper the Amrita Bazar Patrika. He also edited the first news-based Nepali Journal of Sikkim ‘Kanchenjunga.’
Gooroong was a strong supporter of the democratic movement in Sikkim and played an instrumental role in establishing democracy in Sikkim. He started his political career as a member of the Sikkim Rajya Congress Party in 1947 and after a decade he was appointed as the General Secretary in 1958. In 1967, Gooroong was elected as Executive Councillor of the Sikkim Rashtriya Congress Party and remained in the party until 1971.
After Sikkim merged with India in 1975, Gooroong was elected in the first Vidhan Sabha in 1977 as a candidate of the Sikkim National Congress. Consequently, he was appointed as the Speaker of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly in 1977 and he remained in the post until 1979. Gooroong also held the distinction of being the first Sikkimese politician to win simultaneously from two constituencies, Chakung and Jorethang, in the 1979 general elections.
Further, Gooroong was elected to the Vidhan Sabha as a candidate of the Sikkim National Congress Party and subsequently, was appointed as the speaker of the First Sikkim Legislative Assembly in 1977 and served until 1979. In May 1984, Nar Bahadur Bhandari’s government was dismissed by then-governor Homi J. H. Taleyarkhan. Shortly thereafter, Late Gooroong was sworn in as the third Chief Minister of Sikkim and was in office for 13 days. But his short reign proved to be pivotal.
Gooroong was the only Chief Minister to recognise Prince Wangchuk Namgyal as the 13th Chogyal (King) of Sikkim, eight years after Sikkim had become a democracy and part of the Indian Union.
Veteran politician Tseten Tashi Bhutia, who served as a Minister in the past, Bhutia explained the significance of the move. “In 1982, BB Gooroong along with nine other legislators offered Khada to Prince Wangchuk Namgyal acknowledging him as the 13th Consecrated 13th Chogyal of Sikkim. I call him a man with the Sikkimese blood, I felt sad that he is no more.”
“I was there at Tsuklakhang Palace singing Sikkim’s national song ‘Jaha Bagcha Teesta Rangeet’. I was there as a kid with other Gangtok youths, where we sang the national anthem. Gooroong’s nationalistic feeling towards Sikkim was also exhibited in 1967, when he along with two executive councillors of the Chogyal regime, demanded the revision of the Indo-Sikkim Treaty, 1950. It was the reflection of a pure man with a Sikkimese heart. The two executive councillors along with him to demand a revision were late Netup Tshering from Sikkim National Party and late Nahakul Pradhan from Sikkim State Congress.”
Bhutia who now serves as the Convener of Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee shared that Gooroong admitted his guilt both for losing Sikkim to India as well as for being the Chief Minister for 13 days leading a rebellion against the then Chief Minister late Nar Bahadur Bhandari.
Bhutia shared, “He has admitted much later about the 13-day regime of his and the guilt that he carried. But one can make out he was pro-Sikkim. During the 1970s merger or annexation, he has admitted the guilt. But democracy is part of a process and it happened during his time. Ultimately, it is for the people of Sikkim. (The process of )him coming to power as Chief Minister was the game plan of the Union Government and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of that time. They were doing so for the security of India, and Sikkim was made a scapegoat. Today we are not against India, we are proud to be Indians but at the same time, they must respect the terms of merger which are reflected in Article 371F.”
In 1993, Gooroong joined the Sikkim Democratic Front formed under the leadership of Pawan Kumar Chamling and served as Chief Political Advisor. After the formation of the SDF government in 1994, Late Gooroong was appointed as the Chief Political Advisor and he held the office until 2013. After the 2014 election, Late Gooroong disassociated himself from active politics but was vocal in his support for Sikkim Krantikari Morcha led Prem Singh Tamang.
Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, in his condolence message, recalled his long association with Late Gooroong as “a guardian that the State will remain indebted to the former Chief Minister for his valuable contributions in the socio-political development in the State of Sikkim. The State has lost a true democrat and a pro-people politician today that has truly left a void that cannot be filled. He guided the (SKM) party through his valuable suggestions for its proliferation. I will forever remain indebted to him, and my profound regards and reverences are always there for him. The demise of Late B.B. Gurung has deeply hurt us all and is an irreparable loss for the state.”
Sikkim will remain in mourning, and the national flag will be hoisted at half-mast for a week till April 3.
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