Ahluwalia in the gurdwara in Siliguri on Friday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, March 28: The BJP nominee for Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, S.S. Ahluwalia, today wanted to know how Trinamul Congress could spend huge sums of money in their campaigns when their leader was wearing “hawai chappals”.
Ahluwalia kicked off his election campaign in the plains by offering prayers at a gurdwara here today and attended a few workers’ meeting in and around Siliguri.
After arriving in Bagdogra on March 19, Ahluwalia had moved to the hills on the same day. Since then, he had been campaigning across the three Assembly segments in the hills.
From tomorrow, the BJP candidate backed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha will canvass for votes in the Assembly seats of Siliguri, Matigara-Naxalbari, Phansidewa and Chopra, all in the plains.
Around 9.30am today, Ahluwalia, along with BJP leaders and workers, reached a gurdwara on Sevoke Road and offered prayers.
“We have been hearing allegations levelled against me by Mamata Banerjee that I am buying votes with money and carrying bags full of cash. It is a baseless allegation and thousands of people have seen me campaigning across the hills in the past one week,” Ahluwalia said after coming out of the gurdwara.
“I would like to ask the source of Trinamul’s money. While someone is wearing hawai chappals, her party candidates are spending huge sums in their campaigns. Where is this money coming from?”
The BJP candidate was attributing to Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee who wears hawai chappals and seeks to lead a simple life.
The chief minister had alleged during the meetings of Trinamul candidate Bhaichung Bhutia in recent days that Ahluwalia was buying votes from the people.
Today, Ahluwalia referred to his association with Mamata when they were in the Chhatra Parishad. “Both Mamata Banerjee and I had worked together in the Chhatra Parishad and know everything about each other. It is better that she and other Trinamul leaders refrain from making such baseless allegations (against me),” he said.
Told about the Bengal unit of the BJP’s stand against the creation of Gorkhaland, he said: “There are other issues which need focus. Roads across north Bengal are in a pitiable state. Major road works had been undertaken during the term of Atal Behari Vajpayee. The region has been neglected by the state and Centre and no major development has been carried out. We are focusing on these issues right now and intending to address them as an MP in future. We are aware of the demand for a separate state but it is not the only issue that is highlighted in the campaign,” Ahluwalia said.
He also sought to question Mamata’s stand on Gorkhaland.
“Mamata Banerjee is speaking at length against Gorkhaland and our party. But back in 2000, she was an NDA ally and a railway minister when three new states were formed for better governance. She had also allied with the Morcha ahead of the Assembly polls (in 2011) and invited Morcha leaders to a public meeting at Brigade Parade Ground in Calcutta on February 3 this year,” said Ahluwalia.
The three new states — Uttarkhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand — were formed in 2000 by the NDA government.
Ahluwalia attended several workers’ meeting in and around Siliguri today. BJP insiders said Ahluwalia would also interact with people from different walks of life and visit localities in four Assembly segments in the plains in the days to come.
Asked for Trinamul’s reaction to Ahluwalia’s charge, minister Gautam Deb said: “People have witnessed the agitation in the hills and the plains and know how the economy of north Bengal was affected. Some leaders are making political remarks only to slander the image of Trinamul. But they will not succeed in their intentions.”