Jaswant Singh, senior BJP leader and Darjeeling MP, is set to return to his constituency on April 5 to campaign for ally Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), especially across the Hills in the run-up to the first phase of the Assembly elections on April 18. The move is in response to the GJM's call for support from its electoral ally.
Confirming his ensuing visit, Singh's office in Darjeeling informed that the veteran BJP leader would stay at Darjeeling for at least a week. "His itinerary in Darjeeling has not yet been finalised," said a source.
Commenting on Singh's visit, GJM spokesperson and Kalimpong poll candidate Harka Bahadur Chettri said, "When we visited Delhi, Singh had assured us that he would try to be available whenever we needed him. He would be coming to the Hills to campaign for us."
Upon his arrival on April 5, Singh would convene a meeting with the GJM to finalise his campaign strategy. He is likely to visit Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik, in addition to Madarihaat in Jalpaiguri district, the lone seat where the GJM is extending support to the BJP.
Even as the GJM has been an old ally of the BJP, with Singh riding GJM's support to return a landslide mandate in the last Parliamentary elections, the allies had since threatened to drift apart. While the GJM has fielded party candidates in the Hills, in the Dooars they have pledged support to the BJP candidate in only one seat.
In contrast, the GJM has announced unconditional support to the Congress-Trinamool alliance in multiple seats in the Terai and Dooars. However, with the BJP sensing that they hardly have any presence in the Hills, they have pledged their support to the GJM candidates.
Again, in the wake of GJM's support to the alliance, Left Front has lost no time in accusing Mamata Banerjee and her party of being hand in glove with alleged separatist forces (read GJM in North Bengal and Maoists in the south.)
Trinamool, caught off guard by the GJM's call of support, sought to be evasive with Trinamool leader Mukul Roy saying, "It is a ploy by the BJP to malign our party. The GJM is an ally of the BJP."
GJM chief Bimal Gurung sought to play down the controversy over its electoral support to the Trinamool. "Our main objective is rid the state of Left. Hence, we have decided to extend our support to them in certain seats."