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No ‘Gorkha’ in BJP manifesto

SS Ahluwalia in Sonada on Monday. (Suman Tamang)

Darjeeling, April 7: The BJP manifesto today said nothing specific on the aspirations of Gorkhas, shocking the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha which has supported the national party because of its stated position favouring the creation of smaller states.

Sources in the BJP said the party wanted to keep the door ajar for Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee. The BJP would not like to anger Mamata at this juncture before the polls. Announcing anything specific that would be seen as favouring Gorkhaland would do just that.

Later in the day, BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh, who is the party in-charge for Bengal, said: “The party will add it (a mention on the aspiration of Gorkhas) in the Bengal manifesto.”

The BJP’s national manifesto said: “BJP has always stood for greater decentralisation through smaller states.” In the paragraph preceding it, the document said: “Government will play the role of an enabler and a facilitator to the rapid progress of the states, planning along regional aspirations, strengths and potentials, evolving appropriate strategies for various zones of the country — hilly regions, plains, desert and coastal areas.”

Morcha sources said the party had not expected the word “Gorkhaland” to be mentioned in the manifesto. But the hill leaders had hoped that the BJP would keep its 2009 line on dealing “sympathetically” with the “aspirations of Gorkhas”.

Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, said: “Even though words like the BJP is in favour of smaller states and regional aspiration is mentioned, we have spoken to the leadership in Delhi to mention the specifics. They have agreed to do so.”

S.S. Ahluwalia, the BJP Darjeeling candidate, did not mention the state BJP portfolio. He said the party would release an addendum. “Manifesto ka addendum aa jayega (the addendum will come) that BJP will sympathetically examine and appropriately consider the long-pending demand of Gorkhas, the adivasis and other people of Darjeeling district and the Dooars region.” The Morcha and chief minister Mamata Banerjee have moved apart since Trinamul announced Bhaichung Bhutia as its candidate for Darjeeling.

The Morcha wanted a local face to be fielded from Darjeeling. Morcha chief Bimal Gurung said Mamata had gone back on her word on this and unilaterally decided to field the former soccer star.

Ahluwalia tried to explain why the BJP did not mention anything specific pertaining to Gorkhaland in the national manifesto. “You know, they have a heading titled regional aspirations. They thought that under regional aspiration where they have written that they are in favour of smaller states, they thought that everything is included in it,” he said.

Darjeeling votes on April 17