“We are just good friends” – How often have we heard this clichéd dialogue from Bollywood celebrities? Nobody believes them, yet they go on with that façade, perhaps to lower expectations from themselves. Politics in Bengal seems to be mirroring this clichéd line. BJP in Bengal has just stitched up an alliance with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). It is a party that wants to carve out a separate state out of Bengal. The tacit understanding of this alliance is that BJP will include Gorkhaland issue in their manifesto. Yet, state BJP leaders claim that they will never allow Bangobhango ( Bengal to be split), a promise so outrageous that they may well be given an Oscar for saying it with a straight face.
GTA – The Back Story
For the uninitiated, for a very long time, there has been sustained demand in the hills of the Bengal for a separate state. The dominant Gorkhas want it to be named Gorkhaland. Firstly, under Subhash Ghisingh (GNLF) and now under his protégé Bimal Gurung, the demand stays strong. The West Bengal government has placated the demand somehow by forming a semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). After the Telengana decision was made, the GJM led by Gurung upped the ante on his demand for separate statehood. But Mamata Banerjee played hardball and with a cold reaction from the Centre, GJM backed off from their demand temporarily. Just as peace was coming, this new development will again lead to stirring of the pot.
BJP in a dilemma
Even in 2009 GJM supported BJP. Veteran leader Yashwant Singh parachuted from Rajasthan to score an easy victory. But at that time, BJP both in state and centre was considerably weak. Hence, it was prudent for BJP to stitch up an alliance with GJM. But this time BJP is supposed to be in a stronger wicket not only nationally, but in Bengal also. Political pundits are of the view, they may get the Darjeeling seat, but by aligning with Gurungs they may be perceived as bishashghatok (traitor) by the Bengali electorate. That may effectively end up ruining their chances in rest of Bengal. Thus the question arises, is the bravado of the BJP leaders more of a show? Are they not confident of winning a single seat in other parts of Bengal and hence forged alliance with GJM to win Darjeeling?
Some argue this alliance will give them a fighting chance in couple of other seats in the hills. A possible theory is that alliance was forged nationally without taking state leaders into confidence. Also in effect, it finishes off the miniscule window of Mamata Banerjee joining NDA after elections. Surely, she would not like to join hands with a party that has tacit support for splitting Bengal.
Footballer in Cross-fire
But the person who is most likely to be perturbed with BJP and GJM joining hands, should be TMC candidate from Darjeeling, Baichung Bhutia. Always a wily customer on field, he may have scored a self-goal off field by deciding to contest without taking Bimal Daju ( Bhaiya in Nepali) in confidence. Some egos may have been hurt in the process, thus prompting GJM to support BJP effectively sealing Baichung’s fate. Though many believe it is a mere pre text and GJM had to support BJP as it is the only party which ideologically supports smaller states. The TMC leaders though are still making a brave face. They believe that they have enough support now to challenge the supremacy of Morcha in the hills.
Summers are coming. It is the tourist season in Darjeeling. The commoners from both plains and hills will hope that all these political posturing doesn’t create another impasse. Ultimately, it is the common people who often have to face the brunt of the manipulative actions of political leaders.