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BJP, GJM to call off alliance in Bengal

tea estate of Darjeeling
Alongstanding alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Gorkha Janmukti Morch (GJM) is set to end ahead of panchayat and civic body elections to be held this year in West Bengal’s Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.

The hills of north Bengal are dominated by the native Gorkhas. They have in the past few general elections backed BJP candidates in the Darjeeling constituency. The GJM is feeling let down as the BJP did little to push the demand for statehood for Darjeeling since coming to power at the centre in May 2014.

The BJP, on the other hand, is unimpressed by recurrent allegations of corruption against top GJM leaders. The party controls the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, but fritters away most of the grants the semi-autonomous body receives for the development of Darjeeling, said top BJP leaders in West Bengal.

This has caused major discontent among Darjeeling residents, so the BJP wants to distance itself from the GJM.

The BJP wants to expand its own organisation in the hills of West Bengal, said a key party leader, asking not to be named. The alliance with the GJM has yielded very little for the BJP in this region, except a Lok Sabha seat, according to this person. The BJP is now looking to recruit its own leaders and workers for this region, he added.

The BJP has decided to contest the upcoming elections in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik municipal bodies on its own, said Dilip Ghosh, state president for the party in West Bengal. The BJP is looking to strengthen its own organisation in the hills, he added, sidestepping questions on what led to this decision.

Roshan Giri, general secretary of the GJM, said the BJP has no strength in the hills of West Bengal, and that the alliance meant little to the Gorkhas. “Dilip Ghosh himself is against the alliance,” Giri said, adding that the GJM’s fortunes in the hills were in no manner dependent on the BJP’s support.

The GJM had previously backed the BJP, expecting it to support at the centre its demand for separation of Darjeeling from West Bengal. Though every now and then, the GJM renews its demand for a separate state, its movement in the hills is now in disarray, said top Gorkha leaders, asking not to be identified.

Meanwhile, the ruling Trinamool Congress is fast making inroads into the region amid widening fault lines within the GJM. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to woo other smaller tribes who live in hills of north Bengal by creating welfare boards for them.

Earlier this month, she turned Kalimpong into a separate district, giving local people more autonomy in administration and distancing them from the Darjeeling-centric GJM.

Courtesy: http://www.livemint.com

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