Gorkhaland promise helped BJP in Darjeeling
"The dream of the Gorkhas is my dream too" is what BJP's soon-to-be prime minister Narendra Modi had said in one of his election rallies here in the hills of north West Bengal. The Gorkha community is hoping that its dream of a separate state, carved out of West Bengal, would find its fulfilment in the new BJP government.
Giving a whopping 488,257 votes to Bharatiya Janata Party's S.S. Ahluwalia, people here clearly showed that they were reposing their faith in Modi to fulfil their long-standing demand.
"The first and foremost thing for us is Gorkhaland. The BJP had promised us this and so we voted for them. We feel we have a high chance of our dream being fulfilled," Bikash Basnet, a mathematics teacher in a school in Kalimpong, told IANS.
"With a wave in favour of Modi in the entire country, it was certain that the BJP would have come to power in the centre. So people here made the right choice," he said.
The Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency, one of 42 in West Bengal, comprises the Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions.
In 2009 too, people here had voted for the BJP candidate Jaswant Singh, who has now been expelled from the party.
"It is true that earlier too, we were promised Gorkhaland but nothing happened. Just because last time nothing happened, we couldn't give up our long standing demand of statehood," Radhika Sakhya, a student of St.Joseph's College in Darjeeling, told IANS.
People of Darjeeling and those of Gorkha (Nepali) ethnicity in Dooars region in northern West Bengal have been demanding a separate Gorkhaland state.
Two mass movements for Gorkhaland have taken place in the past, first under the Gorkha National Liberation Front 1986-88 and under the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) from 2007 till date.
"Telangana was formed and that too with the help of the BJP. So why not our state, when our demand has been the longest," Sakhya added.
It wouldn't also be wrong to say that the Modi wave did influence the people of the small hill district.
"No leader has ever talked about our dreams and hopes, but Modi spoke about it when he addressed a meeting in Siliguri. Like people from all over the country, Modi is now our hope," Avinandan Pradhan, a 26-year-old resident of Kalimpong, told IANS.
Alleging that the Trinamool Congress "has always tried to dominate the people of the hills and uses the divide and rule policy", Pradhan said there was no way that people of the region could again fall back to the same kind of politics.
Though people here thought about the BJP on a larger perspective, yet the support from the GJM led by Bimal Gurung was also instrumental in garnering votes.
"We wanted Gorkhaland to come true, that is why we worked relentlessly to make the BJP victorious. This was not about an individual party, it was about the aspirations of a large number of people," Santosh Chettri, a GJM leader and government school teacher, told IANS.
However, with his intense campaigning and promise of development, Trinamool's Bhaichung Bhutia at one point had almost turned the wave in his favour but could not last the course.
"Voting for the Trinamool meant giving up our long cause, bringing them to power meant giving up our dream permanently," Shiv Maya Mahat, a 60-year old woman from Darjeeling, told IANS.
(Shradha Chettri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 19-05-2014)