Opin­ion

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Dar­jeel­ing is burn­ing as the Gorkha Jan­mukti Mor­cha has wo­ken up from its rel­a­tive slum­ber to punc­tu­ate the calm of the last few years with its re­newed vi­o­lence and protests over a sep­a­rate state.

GJM chief Bi­mal Gu­rung is at vir­tual war with West Ben­gal Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee, and his vol­un­teers' to­ken strikes and van­dal­ism in North Ben­gal has brought the state to near chaos.

Ma­mata Ban­er­jee's Tri­namool Congress had for some time try­ing to make a foothold in Dar­jeel­ing, the epi­cen­tre of the Gorkha move­ment. The Dar­jeel­ing Lok Sabha seat was won by the BJP in 2009 backed by GJM and in 2014 again the BJP won the seat with GJM'S sup­port. In the pro­posed Gorkha­land falls four con­stituen­cies. Ma­mata's TMC had won three of them in the last gen­eral elec­tion bar­ring Gorkha nerve­cen­tre Dar­jeel­ing.

The TMC which is at present in a deep ri­valry with an up­surg­ing BJP, wants to dec­i­mate the saf­fron party in Dar­jeel­ing too. And un­der­ground cadre move­ment and ac­tivism on part of the TMC and counter-moves by the BJP may be one of the rea­sons why the dy­ing con­flict vig­or­ously got re­newed.

The con­flict had been par­tially re­solved in the late 1980s when then Chief Min­is­ter of West Ben­gal Jy­oti Basu made a com­pro­mise with the then GNLF and granted Dar­jeel­ing Gorkha Hill Coun­cil some au­ton­omy to en­gi­neer peace.

The GNLF split in 2007 when its hard­lin­ers formed the sep­a­rate group called the GJM. These hard­lin­ers who took over the move­ment from the GNLF said they would not set­tle down for any­thing but full state­hood.

This is when Ban­er­jee too made a com­pro­mise deal and formed the Gorkha­land Ter­ri­to­rial Ad­min­is­tra­tion (GTA) that was granted ad­min­is­tra­tive, ex­ec­u­tive and fi­nan­cial pow­ers. The GTA, how­ever, did not have any leg­isla­tive author­ity.

As the con­flict shows its ugly face again, CM Ban­er­jee has ap­pealed for peace. Ex­perts and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors be­lieve state­hood for Gorkha­land is im­pos­si­ble as it will not be eco­nom­i­cally

sus­tain­able. Be­sides, the TMC will never take the po­lit­i­cally sui­ci­dal step of ced­ing a part of West Ben­gal.

Gov­ern­ment, op­po­si­tion take shot at Dalit pol­i­tics through prez poll picks

Fi­nally the much specla­tion on the Cen­tre's nom­i­nee for pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has ended. The rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party has an­nounced that Bi­har gov­er­nor Ram Nath Kovind will be its pick for the coun­try's top job. This has come as a ma­jor sur­prise for all those who had been ex­pect­ing that BJP veteran L.K. Ad­vani, the man cred­ited for cat­a­pult­ing the right wing party from a pe­riph­eral role to the cen­tre stage of In­dia's pol­i­tics, will be re­warded with the cov­eted nom­i­na­tion.

Few oth­ers who had hoped that Sushma Swaraj, long loy­al­ist of BJP'S iron man Ad­vani, will be cho­sen too were in for a rude shock, as Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and his al­ter ego and BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah made it clear that only there "will" will pre­dom­i­nate over all oth­ers. This ce­ments the duo's po­si­tion in the BJP fur­ther with all dis­sent­ing voices who had hoped for a bal­ance of power with Ad­vani as pres­i­dent prac­ti­cally be­ing si­lenced.

The 71-year-old Kovind, al­though a po­lit­i­cal non-en­tity, is of im­mense value to the BJP sym­bol­i­cally as he hails from the Dalit com­mu­nity and has been the pres­i­dent of BJP'S Dalit Mor­cha from 1998 to 2002. Kovind will also boost the BJP'S prospects in the Hindi heart­land as he hails from Kanpur and is ex­pected to so­lid­ify the Bi­har and Ut­tar Pradesh vot­ers heav­ily for the saf­fron party.

The fact that he is a Dalit will fur­ther prove prof­itable for the BJP which i any case has been try­ing to ex­pand its sup­port base within the Dal­its, es­pe­cially the non-jatav Dal­its of U.P. who have been at odds with Mayawati. With its pick for the pres­i­den­tial poll the BJP has taken a deft shot at 2019, and will def­i­nitely ben­e­fit from it.

Kovind was elected to Ra­jya Sabha from Ut­tar Pradesh dur­ing the two terms of 1994-2000 and 2000-2006. He is an ad­vo­cate by pro­fes­sion and prac­tises in the Supreme Court. He rep­re­sented In­dia in the United Na­tions in New York and ad­dressed United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly in Oc­to­ber 2002.

The Janata Dal United had been ini­tially pos­i­tive about the BJP'S choice for pres­i­dent, punch­ing a big ques­tion mark on op­po­si­tion unity and its pledge to give the BJP a close fight. Ni­tish Ku­mar, who has been seen hob­nob­bing with Modi off late, quickly of­fi­cially re­sponded that it was a mat­ter of pride for him that Bi­har gov­er­nor was the pres­i­dent elec­tion nom­i­nee. But his party re­mains non­com­mi­tal about back­ing Kovind. The op­po­si­tion un­der Congress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi had ear­lier de­cided to wait for the BJP'S nom­i­na­tion and then de­cide its next move.

The op­po­si­tion had said that it will back the Cen­tre's nom­i­nee if the man was of sec­u­lar-lib­eral val­ues and had ex­per­tise in con­sti­tu­tional af­fairs. The de­ci­sionw as taken af­ter So­nia Gandhi threw a lun­cheon for the lead­ers of 17 op­po­si­tion par­ties in­clud­ing Mayawati, Akhilesh Ya­dav, Sharad Ya­dav, Lalu Ya­dav, Sharad Pawar and lead­ers of the Left.

Fol­low­ing Kovind's se­lec­tion as the BJP nom­i­nee, the op­po­si­tion de­cided to keep the con­test open and de­clared Meera Ku­mar, for­mer Lok Sabha speaker and Dalit leader, as its nom­i­nee. So, it's go­ing to be a Dalit vote-bank pol­i­tics on full dis­play this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. But with Ni­tish Ku­mar de­fect­ing to the BJP, the op­po­si­tion is with lit­tle hope of win­ning the cov­eted polls.

Mayawati had ear­lier en­dorsed Kovind on the back­drop of his Dalit iden­tity but later with­drew sup­port upon learn­ing that the op­po­si­tion had fielded an­other Dalit leader Meera Ku­mar against him.

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