BJP wary of com­mit­ting on Gorkhaland

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Front Page - DK Singh

DAR­JEEL­ING UN­REST Aware of Te­lan­gana trap, may leave it to Didi to fix cri­sis

hills ap­pear headed for a pro­longed spell of un­rest over Gorkhaland is­sue, thanks to the con­flict­ing in­ter­ests of ma­jor stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing the BJP, the Tri­namool Congress and the Gorkha Jan­mukti Mor­cha (GJM).

Three peo­ple have died in po­lice fir­ing, sev­eral se­cu­rity of­fi­cials in­jured and prop­erty worth crores de­stroyed as a vi­o­lent ag­i­ta­tion for a sep­a­rate Gorkha state rocks the pic­turesque hill sta­tion of Dar­jeel­ing. Hav­ing seen how the Congress paid heav­ily for its Te­lan­gana gam­bit months be­fore the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tions, the BJP is wary.

In De­cem­ber 2009, alarmed by the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health of K Chan­drasekhar Rao who was on a fast-unto-death to press for his de­mand for a sep­a­rate Te­lan­gana state, then union home Min­is­ter P Chi­dambaram is­sued a state­ment say­ing the process of form­ing Te­lan­gana would be ini­ti­ated.

The Cen­tre later tried to wrig­gle out of it by form­ing the Srikr­ishna com­mit­tee for con­sul­ta­tion on the sit­u­a­tion in Andhra Pradesh but it was too late. The chain of events set off by Chi­dambaram’s state­ment even­tu­ally forced the then rul­ing Congress to give in ahead of the gen­eral elec­tions. The Congress was wiped out in Te­lan­gana and Andhra Pradesh Lok Sabha and assem­bly elec­tions that fol­lowed.

The BJP is, there­fore, wary of ini­ti­at­ing any process that could land it in a sim­i­lar trap over Gorkhaland. The party does have its share of state bi­fur­ca­tion his­tory as the NDA had presided over the for­ma­tion of Jhark­hand, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Ut­tarak­hand in 2000. But anti-bi­fur­ca­tion sen­ti­ments in Bi­har, Mad­hya Pradesh and Ut­tar Pradesh were not so strong then, as one wit­nessed over Te­lan­gana.

With chief min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee turn­ing the Gorkhaland is­sue into one of Ben­gali pride and sub-na­tion­al­ism, the BJP, once a votary of smaller states, can’t risk its am­bi­tions in West Ben­gal—with 42 Lok Sabha seats —by sup­port­ing Gorkhaland. They would rather leave it to Ma­mata Ban­er­jee govern­ment to take the lead in re­solv­ing the cri­sis.

BJP lead­ers main­tain that they never promised state­hood in 2009 or 2014 man­i­festo and all that they com­mit­ted was to “sym­pa­thet­i­cally ex­am­ine and ap­pro­pri­ately con­sider” the long-pend­ing de­mand of Gorkhas. Party lead­ers are not in­clined to get into what they be­lieve could be a ‘Te­lan­gana trap’ by tak­ing any fol­low-up ac­tion in pur­suance of the party’s pre-poll prom­ise.

Fac­ing heat from the BJP in West Ben­gal, the chief min­is­ter might be savour­ing the dis­com­fi­ture in the BJP camp at this mo­ment but she would soon re­alise the per­ils of her brinkman­ship in Dar­jeel­ing. It was her an­nounce­ment to make Ben­gali lan­guage com­pul­sory in schools that gave Bi­mal Gu­rung, the GJM chief, an op­por­tu­nity to re­gain his dwin­dling po­lit­i­cal stocks. She might have cor­nered the BJP for now but West Ben­gal might have to pay the price for her po­lit­i­cal mis­ad­ven­ture in the long run.

Two top Tri­namool Congress lead­ers of Sikkim quit the party on Wed­nes­day to protest al­leged po­lice atroc­i­ties on pro­test­ers lead­ing a state­hood ag­i­ta­tion in West Ben­gal’s hill dis­tricts, in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion of Dar­jeel­ing.

Tri­namool’s Sikkim unit pres­i­dent PT Luck­som, also a for­mer deputy chief min­is­ter, and state gen­eral sec­re­tary Tsh­er­ing Wangchuk Lepcha sent their res­ig­na­tions to party Ra­jya Sabha MP Derek O Brien and Lok Sabha MP Sudip Bandy­opad­hyay, sources said.

Their res­ig­na­tion letters were sent via the in­stant mes­sag­ing app What­sApp. Sikkim, a small state bor­der­ing Nepal and Bhutan, has a size­able Nepali-speak­ing pop­u­la­tion eth­ni­cally re­lated to Dar­jeel­ing’s ma­jor­ity com­mu­nity. The Gorkha Jan­mukti Mor­cha (GJM) on Mon­day ex­pressed its “dis­plea­sure” with the Cen­tre and ques­tioned the ab­sence of Dar­jeel­ing BJP MP SS Ah­luwalia at the time of cri­sis.

“The role of al­liance part­ner the BJP is very un­for­tu­nate and very dis­ap­point­ing. We had ex­pected some­thing pos­i­tive from the Cen­tral govern­ment.

“We feel that we are be­ing used as pawns by the Cen­tre and the state,” Dar­jeel­ing MLA and se­nior GJM leader Amar Singh Rai said. Mean­while, CM Ma­mata Ban­er­jee on Mon­day ap­pealed peo­ple to main­tain peace in­stead of “play­ing with fire”.


Stranded tourists wait at a bus stand dur­ing the in­def­i­nite strike called by Gorkha Jana­mukti Mor­cha in Dar­jeel­ing on Mon­day.

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