Facing heat from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) over Union Home Minister Amit Shah using the word ‘Gorkhaland’, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh on Monday said that his party is not in favour of a separate Gorkhaland state and wants a permanent political solution in the Darjeeling hills.
Speaking to reporters here, Ghosh said, “We have never said we want Gorkhaland. We want a permanent political solution to the problem in the Hills so that development can begin there. We have said this before and we are repeating it today,” Ghosh said, adding that the party won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat “with a huge margin and under very tough circumstances” in the recent parliamentary elections.
“We will work for the development of the people of the Hills,” he added.
In dilemma over demand for state, BJP plays safe
The BJP’s “clarification” on the Darjeeling hills issue reflects the party’s dilemma over Gorkhaland. While the BJP has been wining the Lok Sabha seat in the hills for three consecutive terms, it has not yet been able to clear its stand about the separate state of Gorkhaland. After Ladakh became a Union Territory, the call from hill leaders, including pro-TMC Binay Tamang and pro-BJP Bimal Gurung, hovered around the separate statehood demand or a UT. But the Bengal unit of the BJP cannot afford to join the statehood or UT chorus. With the crucial Assembly polls just a year and half away, the state unit doesn’t want to upset its applecart.
Amit Shah’s letter to BJP MP from Darjeeling, Raju Bista, had kicked up a row over the use of the word ‘Gorkhaland’. According to sources in the BJP, Bista had written a letter to Shah in July in which he voiced concern over Gorkhas being left out of the purview of the special cell formed by Delhi Police to counter acts of racism, particularly against the people from the Northeast. In his reply to Bista, Shah had said that the MP’s concern over the people of “Gorkhaland and Ladakh area” is being looked at.
The use of the word ‘Gorkhaland’ by Shah invited criticism from the ruling Trinamool, which accused the Centre and the BJP of “plotting to divide West Bengal”.
Reacting to the TMC’s allegation, Bista said the use of the word “Gorkhaland” has nothing to do with the creation of a separate state. He said that he had written about the residents of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) — the autonomous body that looks after the development of the Darjeeling hills. “The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was set up through a tripartite agreement between the TMC government, Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and the Congress government at the Centre in 2011. So, if they can use the word Gorkhaland, why can’t we use it to refer to the residents of the area. This is political hypocrisy of the TMC,” Bista had told PTI.
Following the Centre’s decision to create two union territories (UT) — Ladakh and J&K — after bifurcating the state of Jammu & Kashmir, several leaders in the Hills have renewed their demand for UT status of Darjeeling.
Darjeeling has in the past witnessed violent agitations over the demand of a separate Gorkhaland, the latest being in June 2017, when the hills witnessed a 104-day strike over statehood.
(With PTI Inputs)