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Darjeeling BJP unit upset over Gorkhaland stir, says party took locals for a ride

BJP leaders in the Darjeeling hills are feeling the heat as a violent movement for Gorkhaland rages on.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2017 21:53 IST
Probir Pramanik
Probir Pramanik
Hindustan Times, Darjeeling
Darjeeling,Gorkhaland,Gorkha Janmukti Morcha
Police guard stores in Darjeeling following clashes with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) this week. (AFP)

For almost a decade, the BJP has slowly made inroads into the Darjeeling hills, riding on its alliance with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) that commands a wide following in the region. The saffron party has won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha twice on the back of a promise to back a separate state of Gorkhaland.

But now, BJP leaders in the hills are feeling the heat as a violent movement for Gorkhaland rages in the hills. Increasingly, the local population is asking party leaders to take a stand on an issue that has simmered for more than a century. “The Darjeeling BJP unit is in a dilemma,” said a hill BJP leader who refused to be named as the BJP central leadership has authorised only the state BJP chief to speak on the issue.

“The Bharatiya Janata Party has taken the Nepali speaking people of the hills for a ride,” said another senior party leader from Darjeeling.

The BJP won Darjeeling parliamentary seat in 2009 and 2014. The current MP, SS Ahluwalia speaks about favouring a separate state for the Nepali speaking people of Darjeeling, but has over the last decade done practically nothing to fulfill the aspiration, say local residents.

“The BJP central leadership should understand the sentiments and emotions of the people…BJP leadership has to come clear on its stance on the formation of Gorkhaland. The hill BJP unit has no other option but to join the movement for a separate state.”

Ashok Bhattacharya, former Bengal minister whose government and party had opposed the demand for a separate Gorkhaland, said the BJP government at the Centre wasn’t obliged to favour Gorkhaland, considering the strategic location of the region. The area is bordered by Nepal in the west, Bhutan in the east and China not too far in the north.

“The BJP at the Centre will not want to create another Kashmir-like situation in the border districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong keeping in mind the defence perspective and the strategic location of the region,” Bhattacharya said. “The BJP the centre is playing a dual game and using the GJM.”

Bhattacharya said that Bimal Gurung, the GJM chief, has a legitimate right to raise the Gorkhaland demand because a tripartite agreement that saw the setting up of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in 2011 had a clause that said the demand for Gorkhaland won’t be dropped.

While signing the tripartite agreement for the setting up the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, Subash Ghising-led Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNFL) in the 1980s had dropped the demand of a separate state.

“A separate state is neither practical nor feasible or a solution and we do not support the demand. But we want peace and stability in the region at any cost,” Bhattacharya.

First Published: Jun 20, 2017 11:46 IST