Updated: July 9, 2021 12:52:43 am
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Thursday said that the elevation of Alipurduar MP John Barla as Union minister indicates that the BJP supports the bifurcation of West Bengal.
John Barla, 45, who was appointed Minister of State for Minority Affairs in the Narendra Modi government on Wednesday, had recently demanded the separate statehood or Union Territory status for north Bengal.
“The decision to make John Barla a Union minister goes to show that the BJP supports his demand for a separate state of north Bengal. This proves that the BJP supports the division of West Bengal. The BJP needs to clarify their stand now,” TMC MP Sougata Roy said.
“He (Barla) is a divisive personality. In the last two years, I have not seen him speaking properly in Parliament. I don’t know what kind of a minister he will be. With his divisive mentality, it is anybody’s guess what he is going to focus on,” Roy added.
TMC MP Mahua Moitra also hit out at the BJP for making Barla a minister. Without naming him, Moitra tweeted: “BJP MP says West Bengal should be split into three parts. The BJP distances (itself) from (the) comment. The same MP is rewarded with Cabinet induction. The games have begun.”
Sources in the TMC said that the party will soon hold protests across the state against Barla’s elevation.
Speaking to a Bengali news channel on Thursday morning after taking charge, Barla declined to comment on his previous statement seeking bifurcation of the state. “I don’t want to comment on it. Now, I would like to work for the benefit of the masses. I will work towards the fulfilment of the demands of the people of north Bengal. Nobody can suppress the demands of the masses,” he said.
Barla alleged that the people of West Bengal are not getting benefits of central schemes, and as Union minister, he would strive to ensure that people get these benefits. “We want peace to return to West Bengal. The Central schemes should be implemented,” he said.
Last month, Barla had made the demand of carving out north Bengal from West Bengal, alleging lack of development in the region. “I raised the demand for North Bengal to be declared a Union Territory. I will take this matter up with Delhi (leadership)… Post-poll violence is continuing unabated in West Bengal. Some local panchayat members have come to me to take shelter, escaping atrocities of the ruling party. This is the reason why I had demanded a separate state in north Bengal,” Barla had then said.
Another BJP MP Saumitra Khan had demanded separate statehood for the Junglemahal region, which was once a Maoist hotbed, contending that there has never been any serious development in that part of the state.
However, after their remarks led to an uproar with the TMC accusing the BJP of planning to divide the state, the state BJP leadership cautioned its two MPs to not make comments on bifurcating the state.
On Thursday, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh denied TMC charges that the BJP was backing the statehood demand raised by its two MPs. Ghosh once again reiterated that the BJP does not support the division of the state.
“We do not support any division of West Bengal. We do not want to see our state divided. The party leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi felt that John Barla would make a good minister and can work for the people. This is the reason why he has been made a Union minister,” said Ghosh.
Apart from Barla, three other MPs from West Bengal –Nisith Pramanik from north Bengal and Subhas Sarkar and Shantanu Thakur from south Bengal were also drafted into the Union Cabinet. Pramanik has been made MoS Home, and Sarkar and Thakur have been made MoS Education, and MoS Ports and Shipping, respectively.
— With PTI Inputs
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