Bharataiya Jantata Party’s West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh on Sunday said his party had never promised to create Gorkhaland, a separate state for Nepali-speaking Indians, also referred to as Gorkhas, PTI reported.
“We want development of Gorkha people,” Ghosh said after a worker’s meeting in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district. “We are sympathetic to the Gorkhaland statehood demand, but had never promised a separate state.” He also said that the National Register of Citizens will be implemented soon in West Bengal like in Assam.
In response, Darjeeling MLA and Gorkha National Liberation Front spokesperson Neeraj Zimba said that they want a “permanent political solution” to the matter. “Dilip Ghosh has his own political compulsions but that does not stop us from continuing our demand for separate Gorkhaland state,” Zimba said.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung, who is currently on the run, had said in April, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, that the saffron party had promised to look into the demand for Gorkhaland.
Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency has had a BJP MP since 2009, with its candidate, Raju Sing Bista, winning the seat this year.
In the 2009 and 2014 general elections, the BJP had tried to create a perception that it supported the demand for Gorkhaland. In 2014, then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi famously remarked, “Gorkha ka sapna, mera sapna [The dreams of Gorkhas are my dreams].” This was perceived as his commitment to the cause. But this time, addressing a rally in Siliguri on April 3, Modi entirely avoided talking about the Gorkhas.
The party manifesto had promised a “permanent political solution to the issue of Darjeeling Hills, Siliguri Terai and Dooars region” without mentioning Gorkhaland.
Despite its silence on Gorkhaland, the BJP enjoyed the support of two Gorkha parties – the Gurung-led faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Shubhas Ghisingh-founded Gorkha National Liberation Front. Other Gorkha organisations and parties also supported the BJP during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In 2017, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had called an indefinite strike in Darjeeling that ended after 104 days. The turmoil began after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her decision to make Bengali compulsory in state-run schools. While she had clarified that hill districts would be exempted from the rule, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha began an agitation that soon revived the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.