GJM joins NDA on Gorkhaland promise, but allies unhappy (Roundup)

April 3rd, 2009 - 10:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi/Siliguri, April 3 (IANS) Promising a separate state of Gorkhaland, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Friday got a new ally in the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is set to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and support BJP candidate Jaswant Singh for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal.
Though the development lifted weeks of suspense over GJM’s political stand in the upcoming polls, it drew sharp reaction from its allies in the Darjeeling hills, who said supping with the BJP would not help the cause of Gorkahland.

Talking to reporters after the release of the party’s manifesto in New Delhi, BJP president Rajnath Singh said his party had always stood for smaller states, and had during the NDA rule created Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. “In future, we will work for Gorkhaland and Telangana (in Andhra Pradesh),” he said.

The GJM is spearheading an agitation for what it calls Gorkhaland, a separate state to be formed out of Darjeeling and the foothills of the Himalayas that are now a part of West Bengal.

Singh said Jaswant Singh - the party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha - will be its candidate from Darjeeling.

Speaking at the same venue, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani said the GJM decided to join the NDA after discussions with top Gorkhaland leaders.

GJM president Bimal Gurung and general secretary Roshan Giri have been camping in Delhi for the last two days to hold talks with the BJP leaders. The GJM, which earlier declared that parties or formations seeking its support for the Darjeeling seat would have to adopt a pro-Gorkhaland stance, had been deliberating with both the Congress and the BJP over the past few weeks.

At one point of time, the GJM even hinted at putting up its own candidate for Darjeeling.

The GJM leadership is understood to have impressed upon the BJP that aligning with it will prove profitable in around 10 seats spread over West Bengal and other neighbouring seats that have a significant Gorkha population.

However, in Darjeeling, Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) expressed unhappiness at its ally GJM taking a unilateral decision to go with the BJP-led NDA.

“Earlier, at an all-party meeting it was decided that a joint decision will be taken on this. But the GJM did not speak to us. We will hold a meeting Saturday to decide our next course of action,” said CPRM central committee member I.K. Sharma.

Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), a new GJM ally, said majority of the people in the hills did not like the BJP. “They will not vote for the BJP, which doesn’t have a base in Darjeeling,” said ABGL central committee member Laxman Pradhan.

“We will contact other parties and sit with them. The GJM has miscalculated.”

Pradhan said his party will also speak to Subhas Ghising, chief of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), who is now in neighbouring Jalapiguri district. “We will see if we can give a joint candidate.”

The state’s ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), however, said it was not concerned at the latest development.

The Ghising-led GNLF was the dominant party in the hills till early last year, and ran the hill development body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). However, the GNLF lost its clout to the GJM, which later used strongarm tactics to force Ghising out of the hills.

Since the 1990s, the Darjeeling seat has been won by the party that secures the backing of the dominant outfit in the hills.

Till the 2004 general elections, the GNLF was the determining factor in the seat. But this time the GJM’s backing is likely to make the BJP’s Jaswant Singh a formidable candidate in the constituency.

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