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Dinner for Gurung, not cabinet icing

Bimal Gurung and SS Ahluwalia. File pictures

Darjeeling, May 26: Bimal Gurung has been invited to today’s dinner with Narendra Modi but the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief won’t get the icing on the cake the hills wanted — MP S.S. Ahluwalia’s presence in the Union ministry.

Gurung, before leaving for Delhi, had said he was hopeful Ahluwalia would be given a berth in the Union ministry. “He is a senior leader of the BJP, the party’s vice-president and also the party in-charge for north-eastern states during the just concluded Lok Sabha polls. I am confident he will be made a minister,” he had said.

Ahluwalia, however, was not sworn in as a minister in Delhi today.

Sources said the Morcha leadership is a bit disappointed, though some said the cabinet can always be expanded at a later date. A member of the delegation that went to Delhi with Gurung told The Telegraph: “The cabinet can be expanded later. We are still hopeful.”

The Morcha camp is confident that Modi will set up a ministry for tea, which they believe would provide an opportunity for Ahluwalia to be included in the cabinet.

But no one in the current BJP dispensation has so far said anything about a separate ministry for tea.

The BJP is perceived to be in favour of creating smaller states, but it had not said anything in its manifesto explicitly about carving out a Gorkhaland state, which is the Morcha’s demand.

The Morcha was hoping that Ahluwalia’s inclusion in the cabinet would be a major boost to the party.

During the election campaign, the Morcha had been saying Ahluwalia would be included in the cabinet. Some enthusiastic Morcha supporters even hoped Ahluwalia would get the home portfolio.

Till date, no hill representative has been appointed as a central minister.

Ahluwalia had earlier been included as a minister of state for urban affairs and parliamentary affairs in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and had also held the post of deputy leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha between 2010 and 2012.

The Morcha leadership had hoped that Ahluwalia’s inclusion in the cabinet would have helped take on the state government, now that the relations between the Gurung and Mamata Banerjee are under strain.

Another Morcha leader, who did not want to be named, said: “Had he been made a minister now, he would not have been able to concentrate in his constituency and also work for our statehood demand.”

The Morcha leadership, however, was happy with the “importance” given to Gurung by Modi.

“Gurung was invited not just for the swearing-in ceremony but also for the dinner for an exclusive group, which included the heads of state of neighbouring countries. This is a huge honour for Darjeeling,” said another member of the delegation in Delhi.

Even though other Morcha delegates Roshan Giri, Binay Tamang, Jyoti Kumar Rai and Swaraj Thapa, were also invited for the swearing-in, they were not invited for the dinner.