Ahluwalia to face tough battle in Darjeeling
Unlike in 2009 when former Union Minister Jaswant Singh got a massive mandate in the Darjeeling hills to earn the BJP its lone Lok Sabha seat from West Bengal, his successor Surinder Singh Ahluwalia finds a sticky wicket in a changing political scenario before the forthcoming Parliamentary polls.
Born and brought up in West Bengal, the 62-year-old National Vice-President of the BJP is a veteran politician. He is a former Union Minister, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha four times since 1986.
However, he could not have met a more complex situation in a constituency, which his party till the other day considered a safe seat. Political warmth in last five years has caused large scale thawing of the frozen support base of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM), the dominant force in the hills that throws its weight behind the BJP.
"I know I shall win. The people of this constituency are behind us," Mr Ahuluwalia said. Going by the statistics, this expectation does not appear to be unrealistic.
In 2009, BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh, supported by GJM, had 4,97,649 (51.5 per cent) votes against his nearest CPI(M) rival Jibesh Sarkar, who had polled 2,44,360 (25.29 per cent) votes.
With undisputed monopolistic supremacy in three hilly assembly constituencies of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, the GJM could ensure around 80 per cent votes in favour of BJP.
Despite only 4-5 per cent share in other four assembly constituencies in plains-- Matigara-Naxalbari, Siliguri, Phansidewa and Chopra -- where GJM is in the minority, BJP could have victory with a margin of 2,53,289 votes .
The reason the GJM has been supporting the BJP is the assurance it received from the BJP high command that the demand for a separate statehood for Darjeeling will be looked into if the party comes to power at the Centre. And Mr Ahluwalia was also unequivocal about the statehood demand that has put Darjeeling in a prolonged unrest : 'The demand for Gorkhaland is no crime. The Gorkhas can never be dissuaded from making this demand and my party will sympathetically consider the demand if elected to power,' he said at a public rally recently.
In an attempt to connect with the local populace, Mr Ahuluwalia has also said mountaineer Tenzing Norgay Sherpa deserves Bharat Ratna and the BJP will look into the matter if voted to power. Accusing both the state and the Centre of failing to recognise Tenzing's contribution, Ahluwalia said, 'Successive governments had not even taken a Cabinet decision to recommend Tenzing Norgay's name for a Bharat Ratna to the President.'
GJM President Bimal Gurung has claimed that GJM support would be the deciding factor not only in Darjeeling parliamentary seat but also in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.
(Posted on 05-04-2014)