Darjeeling issue: Centre to hold talks, claim Bimal Gurung camp
The Bimal Gurung camp of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on Wednesday claimed that Union home minister Amit Shah had decided to hold a “tripartite meeting” of the “Centre, State and GJM within a fortnight” to discuss the Darjeeling issue and demand to confer tribal status on 11 communities.
Gorkha National Liberation Front leader Neeraj Zimba, who won the Darjeeling Assembly seat on a BJP ticket, expressed disappointment over the GNLF not being invited to the talks and threatened to quit as the MLA.
The GNLF is an ally of the BJP, along with the Gurung faction, in the Darjeeling hills.
“There has to be an official political level meeting with all stakeholders (coalition partners) and the GNLF has to be invited. There is no need for tripartite meeting; no one should be making tripartite meeting a scapegoat. A meeting can be held at the bipartite level. If there is no concrete development by October, I will resign,” said Zimba.
Sources at Bengal secretariat Nabanna said the state government was not aware of any such meeting. Besides, a senior state government officer said they did not think the Gurung faction could represent the Morcha at the talks.
The Gurung faction said its leaders Nima Tamang and Binu Sundas, along with BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, had met Shah in his office in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“In relation to it he (Shah) has decided to start the tripartite meeting between the Centre, State and GJM within a fortnight. He has asked his office to issue letters to GJM and the state by 23rd July 2020. The first meeting as per the Hon’ble Home Minister will be held with his office,” reads a press statement signed by Tamang but published in social media by Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Gurung group.
The Gurung faction said the leaders had discussed with Shah the demands to declare 11 hill communities as Scheduled Castes and find a “permanent political solution” to the Darjeeling issue.
The BJP manifesto for the 2019 general election had said: “We are committed to work towards finding a permanent political solution to the issue of Darjeeling Hills, Siliguri, Terai and Dooars region.”
If the tripartite meeting takes place, it has the potential to change political equations in the hills in the run up to the Bengal Assembly polls.
“The stand of the Bengal government is important. Unless they are willing to participate in the tripartite meeting, it will be a non-starter. Whether other coalition partners of the BJP (like the GNLF) will be invited or not could also determine the outcome of the meeting,” said an observer.
The BJP, which won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat for three consecutive times since 2009, is under pressure to deliver something concrete for the hills as the Assembly polls are nearing.
The Binay Tamang faction of the Morcha, which is an ally of the Trinamul Congress, issued a written statement terming the bid for the tripartite talks as an “election stunt” of the BJP.
“If the BJP is really sincere in its commitments towards Gorkhas, they should get passed the bill for granting ST status to 11 Gorkha communities as recommended twice by the Bengal government,” said Tamang and added that the time-consuming tripartite meeting was not required to fulfil the ST demand.