The BJP candidate from Darjeeling, Surinder Singh Ahluwalia, has said that outright rejection of the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland was the “manifestation of a dictatorial attitude that cannot be accommodated in a democratic system”.
The 63-year-old national vice-president of BJP, who was born and brought up at Asansol in Bengal’s Burdwan district and who speaks impeccable Bengali, is being backed by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the demand for a separate Gorkhaland comprising Darjeeling and parts of Dooars and Siliguri.
GJM is opposed to Trinamool Congress’s candidate in Darjeeling Baichung Bhutia.
However, Ahluwalia, who reached Darjeeling Wednesday and started campaigning with the GJM’s help, said there was no dichotomy between the stand of the BJP state unit that opposed the demand for Gorkhaland, and the BJP unit in Darjeeling that favoured it.
“If I have to represent the people of some place, my job will be to voice the hopes, demands, aspirations and grievances of those people. I will have to articulate their demands appropriately. That is the duty of a people’s representative and that will be my dharma. If my party people in the plains oppose Gorkhaland, they are within their constitutional rights. At the same time, if the BJP in the hills favour Gorkhaland, they, too, are within their rights to do so. Rejecting that demand outright is dictatorial; that demand should be examined thoroughly,’’ Ahluwalia said on the phone from Darjeeling.
A close friend of Morcha president Bimal Gurung, Ahluwalia, who also understands Nepali, said Darjeeling had always been neglected. “Nobody has ever cared to examine their demands. They are simple people with very few needs. Look at the roads, situation of drinking water, lack of good schools. Nobody has done anything. There are forces that are creating tension there…we have to expose those forces and get rid of them,’’ the senior BJP leader said.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha, however, reiterated his party’s stand.
“Everybody knows the BJP is in favour of small states. But one thing is clear, a separate state of Gorkhaland is not viable in any respect, be it demographically, geographically or economically.
“The demand is emanating from non-development and once Modiji comes with the wave of development, the demands will be washed away,’’ Sinha told The Indian Express.
Ahluwalia, who went to St Josephs’ School and later Bidhan Chandra college of Asansol, is a law graduate from Calcutta University. He was a Congress Rajya Sabha member since 1986 and joined BJP in 1999. A member of Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand, he is also the vice-president of the party and in-charge of the party’s election cell for Northeast.