A high-level delegation of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) led by the outfit’s president Bimal Gurung returned Darjeeling on Tuesday without any tangible assurance from the BJPs central leadership over their demand of a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Besides this,the GJM and the BJP failed to make any headway for a possible understanding in the Hills during the Lok Sabha elections even as the GJM’s delegation held hectic parleys with BJP’s top leaders in Delhi for over a fortnight.
While Morcha leadership insisted that talks were still on with the BJP,sources in the outfit said their main demand of including Gorkhaland issue in the BJP manifesto did not get approval from the party’s leaders.
Sources said the GJM delegation also wanted assurance from the NDA that the demand of a separate Gorkhaland state would be considered if the coalition returns to power at the Centre.
GJM sources said that the outfit could field its own candidate,Anmol Prasad,from Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat if the talks with the BJP fail.
However,Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said his party was “not interested” in fielding its own candidate at the moment. “All I can say is that talks are still on with the BJP’s national leaders. As for our demand of Gorkhaland being part of the BJP manifesto,let them come out with it first. We have told them all we wanted to and met with their senior leaders. We are hopeful of a positive response from the BJP,” Giri said. The state BJP has already said they are against the Gorkhaland demand.
Sources in the Congress said if Gurung goes with the BJP candidate,it would ensure a victory for the CPM. Of the 11 lakh-plus voters in the district,5.65 lakh reside in the three Gorkha-dominated Hill sub-divisions,while 6.13 lakh reside in the plains where the Morcha has little say. “The BJP has no support base in the plains,so while the Morcha can get them all Hill votes,the votes from the plains will go to the CPM. If they support the Congress which is strong in the plains,the CPM will lose,” sources said.
Meanwhile,sitting Congress MP from Darjeeling Dawa Narbula is waiting for his party to come out with the candidates’ list. While he is hopeful of getting the ticket again,Narbula said he has no idea about getting the GJM’s support. “Last time,the GNLF supported me but no talks were held regarding their support. They approached me on their own. Although the GJM is the main regional party now,we have not met with its leaders regarding elections,” Narbula said.
Giri said the CPM’s choice of a non-Gorkha candidate from Darjeeling was not causing them undue worry. “Let them name who they want to. It won’t make any difference to us. They are backing a non-Gorkha candidate to divide the voters along ethnic lines. If they think they can draw away all the non-Gorkha voters,they are mistaken. We have support in the plain areas. The election results will prove this,” he said.
The CPM’s candidate Jivesh Sarkar,the first non-Gorkha to be fielded in this constituency by the party,claimed exactly the opposite. “We are not trying to divide voters. We make no differentiation between voters based on ethnicity. We want to bring back peace and prosperity which the GJM has been disrupting. Although our previous successful candidate was S P Lepcha,this time it’s a Bengali but that won’t make any difference. Our voters come from various communities,” Sarkar said.
Sources in the district administration said over the past year,pro-Bengali organisations like Amra Bangalee have been drumming up anti-Gorkhaland sentiments in the plains as the GJM’s agitation became shrill. During the recent stand-off between the Morcha and tribals in the Dooars,these organisations had extended unconditional support to the tribals.