The heads of BJP mandals in Darjeeling have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president J.P. Nadda highlighting their unease in facing the people of the region because of the failure to deliver on poll promises even after four-and-a-half-years of coming to power for a second term.
“…With humble submission we would like to draw your kind attention towards your sincere commitment to the Gorkhas regarding permanent political solution and granting Schedule Tribe status for eleven Gorkha communities during the Lok Sabha election 2019,” the letter signed by either the president or the secretary of the 26 mandals from the Darjeeling hills, Kalimpong and Terai said.
Darjeeling has been electing BJP MPs for the last 15 years, starting with Jaswant Singh in 2009, S.S. Ahluwalia in 2014 and Raju Bista in 2019.
In the 2019 election manifesto, the BJP has made the twin promises of a permanent political solution and the granting of tribal status to 11 Gorkha communities. Even though the BJP has not defined what a permanent political solution, most in the hills interpret it as a new state of Gorkhaland.
The 11 communities seeking ST status are Bhujel, Gurung, Mangar, Newar, Jogi, Khas, Rai, Sunuwar, Thami, Yakka (Dewan) and Dhimal.
The failure to fulfill the election promises had put BJP leaders and the party's allies in a spot of bother.
“Being Mandals of the prestigious Bharatiya Janata Party, every citizen questions us regarding our popular slogan ‘Gorkha’s Dream My Dream’. Our great hope is still with you Adarniya Pradhan Mantri Ji, please kindly solve our long-pending aspirations before the end of the year 2023,” the letter to the Prime Minister said.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, Modi had said in Siliguri: “Gorkhas’ dream is my dream.”
Since then the Opposition parties have been repeatedly raising questions on the fulfillment of the "dream". Sikkim chief minister, P.S. Golay (Tamang), whose Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) is a BJP ally, also plans to take a delegation to Delhi to press for the ST status.
Binay Tamang, a GTA Sabha member who recently joined the Congress, said no bills to deal with the concerns of the Gorkhas had been listed for the winter session of Parliament.
The winter session will start on December 4 and end on December 22.
“During the winter session, 18 bills, of which seven are new, are going to be listed as per available information. However, none of the 18 bills addresses the twin issues of the Gorkhas,” Tamang said, adding that the Congress had been more sympathetic to the Gorkhas.
The Congress government at the Centre had formed both the autonomous bodies in the hills, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988 and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in 2011, apart from recognising the Nepali language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
Bista, the BJP's Darjeeling MP, expressed confidence in the Centre. “I am confident that at least one of the two issues will be resolved before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Also, there have been instances of new bills being placed in Parliament at the very last moment,” Bista said.