GNLF calls for poll boycott in Darjeeling (Lead)

April 12th, 2009 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Siliguri (West Bengal), April 12 (IANS) The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) Sunday called for a poll boycott in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency, giving a fresh twist to politics in the hills of northern West Bengal.
Addressing GNLF workers for the first time in over a year, party supremo Subash Ghising demanded Scheduled Tribes status for hill groups like Rais, Gurungs, Magars and Newars.

“We will boycott not only this election, but also future Lok Sabha polls if the authorities do not give Scheduled Tribes status to these groups,” Ghising told around 4,000 party activists - who came all the way from the hill sub-divisions of Kurseong, Darjeeling and Kalimpong for the meeting.

The GNLF, which led a violent agitation in the 1980s demanding Gorkhaland - a separate state out of Darjeeling and surrounding areas in the hills that are part of West Bengal - has been marginalised in the hills with the emergence of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM).

The GJM is supporting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heavyweight Jaswant Singh’s candidature in Darjeeling and has joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after the BJP agreed to sympathetically consider the separate state demand.

Ghising claimed that as per the census report of 1931, all residents of Darjeeling had been granted Scheduled Tribes status. But later, the central government deleted the names of some of the groups.

Turning the heat on the rival outfit GJM, Ghising said it had no right to demand Gorkhaland.

“We were the first to raise this demand on April 5, 1980. Let the GJM find their own issue and fight for it,” said Ghising, the former uncrowned king of the Darjeeling hills, to repeated shouts of “Long Live Gorkhaland” from his supporters.

Ghising charged the GJM with creating anarchy in the hills. “They are indulging in extortions. Development has come to a standstill. The situation is very bad,” he said.

He said attaining demands liKe Gorkhaland required time.

“I got the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). I had also finalised granting Sixth Schedule status to the hills which would have brought in lot of money. But some people have stopped it.”

After GJM announced its decision to support the BJP, Ghising said that the GNLF will play a role in the polls.

But Sunday’s announcement has come as a damper to his supporters.

The pro-GJM Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) said Ghising’s boycott call will not have any effect. “He has lost his senses. Everybody will come out to vote,” said CPRM central committee member I.K. Sharma.

Ghising ran the DGHC for about 20 years with an iron hand, till his party lost its clout to the GJM last year.

He is now based in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district after being virtually driven out of Darjeeling by the GJM.

Since the 1990s, the Darjeeling seat has been won by the party that secures the backing of the dominant outfit in the hills. Darjeeling goes to polls April 30.

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