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HIGH HOPES

Electoral alliances in India have little to do with principles or morality. Old alliances are broken and new ones sealed with the sole objective of winning the polls. There is thus nothing surprising about the Trinamul Congress and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, partners in past polls, drifting apart. In fact, it would have been strange if the two parties were to put up a united front for the battle for Darjeeling. Its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland has been the GJMís political lifeline. For the TMC, a division of West Bengal was never a part of any bargain with the GJM. If the two had found some common ground earlier, that had more to do with peace and political stability in Darjeeling than anything else. However, both Mamata Banerjee and Bimal Gurung, the GJM leader, should put the interests of peace and development above the electoral contest in Darjeeling. As chairman of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, Mr Gurung has important responsibilities for improving civic and other amenities in Darjeeling. He would need the state governmentís help in planning and executing welfare schemes in the hills. What happens between the TMC and the GJM over the Darjeeling parliamentary seat should not stand in the way of improving things for the common people in the hills.

From the Bharatiya Janata Party, though, Mr Gurung has greater expectations. He hopes for the party to support its demand for Gorkhaland. The same hope had inspired the GJM to support a BJP candidate for Darjeeling in the last Lok Sabha polls as well. But Mr Gurung hopes that it would be very different this time, because the BJP has a realistic chance of leading the next government at the Centre. Actually, Mr Gurung had just two options ó to put a GJM nominee or to support a BJP candidate ó because no other party supports the demand for Gorkhaland. But even a BJP-led government may find it tough to act on Mr Gurungís demand. All major parties, including the TMC, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Congress and even the state unit of the BJP are opposed to any division of Bengal. The recent turmoil over the creation of Telangana showed that statehood demands could pose serious political challenges to any government. For a border region such as Darjeeling, much greater caution would be needed in order to tackle such a demand.