Jaswant arrives in Darjeeling to a rousing reception

April 7th, 2009 - 8:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Siliguri (West Bengal), April 7 (IANS) Petals were showered on and slogans of support raised for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) senior leader and Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat nominee Jaswant Singh who arrived here to a tumultuous welcome from around 2,000 Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) activists Tuesday.
Accompanied by his wife, Jaswant Singh flew in to Bagdogra airport near here and was received by senior GJM leaders, including its secretary Roshan Giri and Asha Gurung.

“Gorkhaland chahinchha, Gorkhaland chahinchha” (We want Gorkhaland, we want Gorkhaland), “BJP Zindabad, Jaswant Zindabad,” shouted the GJM supporters, as the BJP leader was presented a ‘khada’ - the traditional Nepali scarf.

The GJM is supporting Jaswant Singh’s candidature and seems all set to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after the BJP agreed to sympathetically consider its demand.

The GJM is leading the movement for Gorkhaland - a separate state to be formed out of Darjeeling and the foothills of the Himalayas that are now a part of West Bengal.

There was pandemonium outside the airport as television camera personnel and still photographers jostled for vantage positions, and overzealous GJM supporters also tried to break through the heavy police cordon.

Jaswant Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the Darjeeling problem was a century old. “I have come here not to take anything, but to give. I will try to solve the Darjeeling problem”.

The BJP leader, who is slated to file his nomination April 9, said he will campaign all over India for finding a solution to the imbroglio.

Jaswant Singh, who has handled prominent ministerial assignments like defence, finance and external affairs, was put at the head of a convoy of more than 200 cars, which sped off through National Highway 55 towards the Darjeeling hills.

However, a group of “Bangla o Bangla bhasha bachao committee” (Save Bengal and Bengali language committee) waved black flags at Jaswant Singh near Siliguri-Darjeeling junction, protesting the BJP’s promise to sympathetically consider the Gorkhaland demand.

“The BJP will not be able to break Bengal,” committee president Mukunda Majumdar said, threatening to obstruct Jaswant Singh’s way whenever he came to the plains to campaign.

Three of the assembly segments in the constituency - Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong - are in the hills, while the remaining four - Matigara-Naxalbari, Siliguri, Phansidewa and Chopra - are in the plains.

The Subhas Ghising-led Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), which initiated the demand for Gorkhaland in the late 1980s, ran the autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) for years, before the GJM upstaged it.

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 Jaswant Singh a formidable candidate in the constituency.

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