Hill leaders are camping in Delhi and sending clear signals that they are looking at new political tie-ups ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Most of the Darjeeling-based hill parties have supported the BJP since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Binay Tamang, a prominent face in Darjeeling politics, on Thursday admitted that he was camping in Delhi to meet political parties and dropped broad hints of his leaning towards the Congress.
“To get the demand (of the community) fulfilled let us not rely on just one person and one political party,” said Tamang.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung and party general secretary Roshan Giri are also in Delhi.
Giri said he and Gurung were in Delhi for personal reasons. “I am here for a medical check-up while daju (Gurung) is here (for something) related to an educational institution,” Giri said over the phone.
Sources, however, said the Morcha leaders were testing political waters in Delhi ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
The Bimal Gurung-led Morcha was the prime movers to get the BJP in Darjeeling and ensure its win from Darjeeling in the Lok Sabha since 2009. Until very recently, the BJP did not have any organisational base in Darjeeling.
Gurung parted ways with the BJP in 2020 and aligned with Trinamul. At the moment, Gurung’s party has distanced itself from Trinamul.
While the Gurung camp was tight-lipped on the Delhi stay, Tamang dropped broad hints that many hill leaders were exploring the possibilities of a tie-up the Congress.
“I had earlier written to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and have come here to try and understand what Delhi is thinking about us,” said Tamang.
On May 17, Tamang invited Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and party president Kharge to visit Darjeeling hills, stating that the Congress Prime Ministers had done a lot for Darjeeling hills.
Tamang wrote to Sonia and Kharge that respect and affection for the Gandhi family were there in the hills and added: “May the Congress party get the privilege to serve the nation and the people of India in 2024 and the years to come.”
Till date, four Prime Ministers have visited the Darjeeling hills — Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Moraji Desai and Rajiv Gandhi.
“Moraji Desai's visit (in 1979) left a bad taste as he termed Nepali a foreign language,” said Tamang. Several hill leaders had requested Desai, then Prime Minister in 1979, to include Nepali in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution. It was done in 1992 when the Congress was in power in Delhi.
During Congress tenures in the Centre in 1988 and 2012, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) were formed.