A WEEK after BJP chief Amit Shah said the party was yet to decide its stand on the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya on Tuesday said the party cannot support the demand. He added that it wants to help “protect the identity and culture of the Gorkhas and address their development concerns”. His remarks came amid reports that Shah had summoned West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh, national secretary Rahul Sinha and state general secretary in charge of organisation Subrata Chatterjee to Delhi to clarify the party’s stand on the issue.
The BJP has been in a fix over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state — a demand which was revived recently after the West Bengal government announced that Bengali would be a compulsory subject in all schools till Class X. By the time the state government clarified that it would not be compulsory, the damage was done. Tensions gripped the Darjeeling hills and the protests escalated to the demand for a separate state.
In its manifestoes ahead of the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP had stated that it “would sympathetically examine and appropriately consider the long pending demands of the Gorkhas.” But its ambition to emerge as a major electoral force in West Bengal seems to have the party in a dilemma. “We have always been sympathetic to the concerns of the Gorkhas when it comes to the protection of their identity and culture. The party never backed a separate Gorkhaland,” said Vijayvargiya. “We have to look at their demands for development of the region and address issues like backwardness,” he added.
Sources said the BJP cannot afford to support the creation of a separate Gorkhaland state — a region which is as small as “two-and-a-half assembly constituencies” in the border area. “The Centre has intelligence inputs that there could be Chinese incursions through the region,” said a senior BJP leader. With its state leaders making it clear that they could not back the Gorkhaland demand, the BJP tried to put the onus on the TMC-led government in West Bengal. “The state government should take the initiative if there is a need for a separate state,” Vijayvargiya said. When it was pointed out that the Centre does not require the state’s consent for the formation of a new state, he said, “But the state government should officially say that it is for it or against it.”
BJP leaders also said the delay by the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government in granting financial autonomy to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration had left the people of the region discontented. The BJP leader’s opposition to the demand for a separate state comes a week after Shah indicated that the party was yet to decide on its stand on the issue. On June 17, Shah, when asked about the party’s Darjeeling MP and Union Minister S S Ahluwalia’s support for the agitation, said: “It is true that we are in favour of small states. Once we decide something about it, we will announce it.”
Ahluwalia had written to the Union Home Ministry seeking to appoint a committee to look into the merits and demerits of the demands of Gorkhas, Adivasis and others. Ahluwalia is the second BJP MP — after Jaswant Singh — to have won the Darjeeling seat, with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s help.