Jaswant promises to raise Gorkhaland demand with Delhi

April 10th, 2009 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Darjeeling, April 10 (IANS) Vowing to carry the “voice of the Gorkhas” to Delhi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran Jaswant Singh Friday began his election campaign from this West Bengal constituency, and said the Gorkhaland demand was aimed at strengthening the unity of the country.
“I have come here to raise your demand and reach your voice up to Delhi with success,” Singh, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Darjeeling with the support of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), said here.

Despite his indirect references to Gorkhaland, the seasoned politician never once said categorically that he would ensure a separate state for Darjeeling and its surrounding areas, which the GJM is fighting for.

Speaking at a well-attended joint election rally in Sukhia Pokhri with top GJM leaders, Singh said the world needed to hear the voice of Darjeeling and the Gorkhas. “This (the Gorkhaland demand) is not meant to separate, but to unite.”

After an euphoric reception at the rally venue, where GJM chief Bimal Gurung and secretary general Roshan Giri raised a strong pitch for Gorkhaland, Singh headed for a media conference at the Gymkhana Club.

Terming Darjeeling as a city of great significance for its strategic location and tourism potential, Jawant Singh said that while the infrastructure in the country’s northeast rapidly improved after the 1962 Sino-Indian war, Darjeeling fell behind.

“Darjeeling has never had a clear say in its economic development. You can’t have a region grow and develop if people are far removed from what you are going to do,” he said.

He promised to play a role in developing the infrastructure of Darjeeling by ensuring better water supply and road connectivity. “The tea industry, travel and tourism and environment also needs to be improved,” he said.

The GJM, which has supported Singh’s candidature, is now part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after the BJP agreed to sympathetically consider its Gorkhaland demand.

Singh will be up against sitting MP Dawa Narbula of the Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate Jibesh Sarkar among others.

However, political observers are waiting to hear from Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) chief Subash Ghising, who has announced that his party will play a role in the polls.

Ghising has been holding parleys with his associates in the neighbouring Jalpaiguri district, where he is now based after being virtually driven out of Darjeeling by the GJM last year.

Three of the assembly segments in the constituency - Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong - are in the hills where the GJM now appears to have a stronghold. The remaining four parts - Matigara-Naxalbari, Siliguri, Phansidewa and Chopra - are in the plains.

The Ghising-led GNLF, which led a violent agitation on the Gorkhaland demand 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.

Darjeeling goes to polls April 30.

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