March 30, 2014

On the Road before E Day | March 29, 2014

Day 6: Will the real BJP please stand up?

In the hills of Darjeeling, S.S. Ahluwalia, the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from the constituency, promises to divide Bengal and create a new state. In Kolkata North, Rahul Sinha, the BJP’s candidate from the constituency, denies any such plans. “Listen to me,” he says, “I am the state party president. Don’t listen to that man.” The “that man” is Ahluwalia.

It is astonishing that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has done a deal with the BJP yet again. In 2009, the two parties combined to have Jaswant Singh elected by over 200,000 votes. Once chosen by the good people of Darjeeling, Singh simply disappeared and was the absent constituency MP. In fact, the GJM asked people to file an FIR and a complaint about a missing person (their MP).

The BJP is speaking about Darjeeling in two voices. The Congress has done one better – or worse, choose your adjective – by speaking in a non-voice. A few days ago, Rahul Gandhi was touring north Bengal. After addressing a public meeting, he was walking off the stage and leaving for his next engagement. Suddenly, a journalist shouted out to him: “Mr Gandhi, Mr Gandhi, a question… What do you have to say about the GJM’s demand for a separate state?”

Mr Gandhi stopped. He thought for a moment. He stepped back a few steps, and then he answered the question: “No comment.”

Postscript: Whatever the BJP candidate may say, the Trinamool Congress is committed to a united Bengal, with equal, fair and just treatment, and quick development, for the people of Darjeeling. Acting on these words, Mamata Banerjee has made about 30 trips to Darjeeling and north Bengal since becoming chief minister in 2011.

This is in contrast to the chief ministers and top leaders of the CPI(M) who, over 34 years of Left Front rule (1977-2011), barely visited or even thought about Darjeeling.

To put things in perspective, Mamata Banerjee has promised justice to Darjeeling. However, to use her own words, the state will be broken up only over her dead body.

Derek O’Brien
Member of Parliament
Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson, Trinamool Congress