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Morcha strike-shy after CM jab

Darjeeling, April 15: Bimal Gurung today said there would be “no strikes” in the hills, the announcement aimed at building confidence among businessmen to whom Mamata Banerjee had directly appealed for votes on Sunday.

“Once we win the elections, we will confine our Gorkhaland agitation to Delhi. There will be no strikes in the hills. Just like S.S. Ahluwalia (the Morcha-backed-BJP candidate for Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat) has rented a place in Darjeeling, we, too, will rent a place in Delhi and camp there,” Gurung told a rally at the Darjeeling Motor Stand.

At a campaign rally in Siliguri on Sunday, chief minister Mamata had switched to Hindi to connect with the Marwari business community that numbers over 80,000 in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.

Main vinti karna chahungi ke aap meherbani karkey BJP ko vote mat dijiye (I request you not to vote for the BJP),” Mamata said.

She reminded the business community of the bandhs and strikes in the hills during last year’s statehood protests and said the BJP was fighting the election on the plank of dividing the state. “In case there is a law-and-order problem, and your business gets affected, the BJP will not be able to come to your rescue,” she said.

The Morcha, which has a strong presence in the hills, is also cashing in on the Modi wave to get some votes in the plains, where most voters are not in favour of the Gorkhaland demand.

In such a scenario, and given that a four-cornered contest has made all parties wary about a split in votes, the Morcha, too, is trying to woo every section of voters.

At the meeting, Ahluwalia made repeated references to the issues of minorities such as Christians and Tibetans, who are mostly Buddhists, in the hills.

“I have found that Schedule Caste members who convert to Christianity lose their privileges given to the SC community. I will definitely look into the matter once elected to Parliament,” he said today.

The BJP candidate said: “The Christian community is also being denied Gorkha certificates. This should not happen and I will raise this issue also.”

Gorkha certificates are needed for recruitment into police and armed forces as the community enjoys relaxation in height and other physical attributes.

Apart from the Christians, Ahluwalia also made a special mention of the Tibetan community. He made a special request to the organisers to let him speak again after Gurung finished his address. He had spoken before Gurung.

“I have come to address you once again as I need to speak on an important issue. I want to tell the Tibetan community that is scattered across the country that their problems have not been properly raised in Parliament. I will raise your concerns in Parliament.”

Ahluwalia has also promised to ensure that 10 hill communities are given Schedule Tribe status. “I give the word that these communities will be given ST status,” said Ahluwalia.

The 10 hill communities that are vying for the ST status constitute 50 per cent of the hill population.

The state government has already recommended to the Centre the granting of ST status to the 10 communities. The status has to be given by the Centre.

Ahluwalia today filed a complaint with the district election officer, alleging that Mamata Banerjee had threatened the business community while asking them to vote for Trinamul.