iconimg Sunday, April 19, 2015

Zia Haq, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 24, 2009
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the party fighting to carve up north Bengal, has said it offered its stronghold Darjeeling to Jaswant Singh after the BJP pledged to help create a “Gorkhaland”. The Morcha’s all-out support to the BJP has turned the tourist haven into a high-stake seat, with the CPM seething. Darjeeling goes to polls on April 30.

Revealing its pact with the national party, Morcha vice-president Pradeep Pradhan, told HT, “The BJP has assured us that Gorkhaland will be created. The BJP realises our distinct identity. Only the BJP represents the hopes of Gorkhas. Don’t forget they have already created three states.”

The BJP advocates smaller states and has politically benefited from the formation of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. The BJP has stated it would take a sympathetic view of the demand of Gorkhas.

The new combine has given the Left reasons to worry.

The ruling CPM-led state government wants autonomy with more financial and administrative powers for Gorkhas in north Bengal but has vowed not to allow formation of Gorkhaland.

The chances of the Morcha powering a win for Singh appear bright.

“Singh doesn’t need to campaign. He has won,” Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri bragged.

His confidence is understandable. A section of the Tibetan community, which traditionally supports the Congress, has for the first time given support to the Morcha-BJP combine, he said.

The CPM has charged the Morcha with unleashing a reign of terror to limit campaigning of its candidate Jibesh Sarkar and threatening voters. It has even filed a complaint before the Election Commission. Based on the complaint, an FIR has been lodged against Morcha chief Bimal Gurung.

CPM leader Nilotpal Basu said the BJP was misleading the people by taking a dual stand. “The BJP state unit has come out with a statement saying they do not support a separate state,” Basu said.

“BJP leader L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and S.S. Ahluwalia, with whom we had the talks said they would help create a separate state,” Pradhan, the Morcha’s second-in-command, added.

Darjeeling has three hill segments and four in the plains. It is a melting pot of Nepalis, Bhutias, Muslims, Lepchas and Tibetans. The Left is now banking on consolidating its vote in the four plains segments for a win.