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Ahluwalia reaches out to CPRM & KPP
‘Old friends’ discuss elections

Darjeeling, March 20: The BJP candidate for Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, S.S Ahluwalia, today called on CPRM president R.B. Rai and appealed for the hill party’s support in the election for “the cause for which the people of Darjeeling have been fighting”.

The CPRM which attracts a large number of people to its public meetings has said a decision on the support for Ahluwalia will be taken next week.

Ahluwalia, whose candidature is backed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, was closeted with a few CPRM leaders in the party office here for 45 minutes. The spokesman for the CPRM, Govind Chhetri, wished the BJP candidate “best of luck” for the elections, dropping broad hints that the hill outfit was likely to support Ahluwalia.

The BJP leader was accompanied by Morcha leaders, Binay Tamang, Raju Pradhan and Ram Jung Golay, to the CPRM office. Ahluwalia first spoke to Rai, a former Rajya Sabha member, before holding talks with other CPRM leaders.

Rai welcomed Ahluwalia and both the leaders told the media that they were “old friends”. “We are old friends. He (Ahluwalia) had helped us a lot when we were demanding the inclusion of Nepali language in the Eight Schedule of the constitution (in 1992),” said Rai. After exchanging pleasantries, Ahluwalia sat with CPRM’s central committee members like Govind Chhetri, Narbu Lama and Shekhar Chhetri. Rai was not present in the meeting and even the three Morcha leaders stayed off.

After the meeting, Ahluwalia said he had requested the CPRM to support his candidature. “I came to meet my old friend, R.B. Rai, and have also met the party’s central committee members. I am confident they will take a decision that won’t divide the votes which are cast for the cause, for which the people of Darjeeling have been fighting for long.”

Asked if the CPRM had put forth any conditions for the support, Ahluwalia said: “We are looking at working with trust and interest in each other. When there is trust, there are no conditions.”

Govind Chhetri admitted that there would be no conditions when the two parties had “interest in each other”. He, however, said the CPRM wanted the inclusion of “a separate state of Gorkhaland comprising the hills, Terai and Dooars” in the election manifesto of the BJP.

“The central committee and the election committee of the CPRM will meet soon to finalise its decision on Ahluwalia’s request for our support. We will most probably announce our decision on March 23,” said Govind.

Ahluwalia assured the CPRM that he would act as “a bridge” between the people and the government to ensure that the “expectations and aspirations of the people are fulfiled”. Morcha assistant secretary Tamang said his party had already held a meeting with the central election committee of the CPRM two days back to seek support for Ahluwalia. Even though the CPRM and the Morcha are not in the best of terms, the two parties had come together in the past for the agitation for Gorkhaland.

Lama’s response

The Darjeeling Dooars United Development Foundation which backs Independent candidate Mahendra P. Lama in Darjeeling said on Thursday that the Morcha should support him unconditionally and in writing. P. Arjun, the spokesman for the foundation, also said the Morcha should withdraw its support to the BJP, virtually rejecting Morcha president Bimal Gurung’s request for Lama’s backing for Ahluwalia.