Lok Sabha elections 2019: SS Ahluwalia opts out of Darjeeling seat, says will contest from any other seat - Hindustan Times
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Lok Sabha elections 2019: SS Ahluwalia opts out of Darjeeling seat, says will contest from any other seat

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Mar 25, 2019 12:32 AM IST

Union Minister SS Ahluwalia has told the Bharatiya Janata Party’s leadership that he is opting out of the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, and the party may chose any candidate it finds fit to contest from the constituency in West Bengal, a senior leader of the party confirmed.

Union Minister SS Ahluwalia has opted out of contesting from the Darjeeling seat and has told the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership that he was ready to contest from any other parliamentary constituency that the party may decide for him, a senior leader of the ruling party familiar with the development said.

Union Minister SS Ahluwalia(Hindustan Times file photo)
Union Minister SS Ahluwalia(Hindustan Times file photo)

Polling for Darjeeling seat will take place on April 18, and March 26 is the last day for filing nomination. The BJP is yet to declare its candidate for Darjeeling.

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“Ahluwalia has told the party that he is not pitching himself for Darjeeling seat, and the party may decide in favour of any other leader it finds fit to contest from there,” the leader quoted in the story said. “He has, however, told the party that he is open to contesting from any other seat that the BJP may decide.”

The BJP later announced Raju Bista as its candidate to replace Ahluwalia. The 33-year-old leader is also the managing director of a private company.

BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said the party had also secured support of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha for the Lok Sabha elections.

Ahluwalia won the 2014 parliamentary election from Darjeeling with a margin of over 1.9 lakh votes, after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, a local outfit spearheading the demand for a separate Gorkhaland, announced support to the BJP on promise that a future NDA government in Delhi will accede to their demands.

The BJP did not include the Gorkhaland demand in its original election manifesto for 2014, but issued a addendum following protest from the GJM. “The BJP reiterates that it will sympathetically examine and appropriately consider the long pending demands of the Gorkhas, the Adivasis and other people of Darjeeling district and the Dooars region; of the Kamtapuri, Rajbongshi and other people of North Bengal (including recognition of their language); and will take initiatives for a permanent solution of the long pending issues of the Bodos and other tribals of Assam, the people of Sikkim, Leh, Ladakh, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep and other such neglected regions.”

The BJP and the GJM leadership were caught in a tug of war over the last five years on the demand for a separate state. While the GJM insisted on carving out a new state from West Bengal, the BJP dragged its feet fearing a negative impact on its expansion plan for the rest of the state.

The relationship between the two parties got strained further after violent protest erupted in Darjeeling, and the outfit called for a strike in the hills, which lasted for 104 days between June and September 2017. A police crackdown forced GJM leaders, including its founder Bimal Gurung, to run away from hills.

The GJM disintegrated in the meantime with one of its faction, led by BenoyTamang, moving closer to Trinamool Congress led by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who continued to keep the pressure up on GJM leaders close to the BJP. Tamang was appointed head of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, a regional autonomous body of the hills and a GJM leader Amar Singh Rai has been given Trinamool Congress ticket to contest the parliamentary election.

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