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Opinion

BJP and GNLF team up for Bengal polls

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) will contest the next West Bengal assembly elections in alliance, the two parties announced on Thursday, an event that may affect electoral dynamics in the hills of Darjeeling in North Bengal.

The BJP, which has won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat since 2009, was looking for a new ally after Bimal Gurung of the Gorkha Janmukti Morhca (GJM) changed his allegiance to Prime Minister Mamata Banerjee in October. The GNLF was a dominant force in the region since the 1980s due to its leadership in the movement demanding a separate state from Gorkhaland, but lost most of its strength in recent years due to the rise of the GJM.

“We were allies of the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and our electoral partnership will continue,” Ajoy Edwards, president of the Darjeeling branch of GNLF, told HT. The BJP confirmed the development. “We will answer the next elections with GNLF as our ally,” said Sayantan Basu, general secretary of the BJP Bengal.

There are six assembly seats in the Darjeeling Hills, of which the Trinamool Congress has one and the BJP none.

Edwards made the statement hours after smaller party leaders in Darjeeling held a meeting with Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy in Delhi to discuss the demand for scheduled tribe status for 11 Gorkha communities and one permanent political solution to the Gorkhaland uproar.

In addition to GNLF, the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists, the All India Gorkha League and some local teams participated in the meeting. Also present were Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP National Secretary General and Party Election Observer for Bengal, and Raju Bista, BJP Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling.

“Reddy stated that the process for the inclusion of 11 excluded Gorkha sub-tribes is already underway and that the Union Ministry of the Interior is in communication with the Registrar General of India (RGI) regarding the request for speed up the process”. Bista said in a statement after the meeting.

Gurung, who leads a faction of the GJM and helped the BJP win the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, came out of hiding in October and offered to help Banerjee win seats in the local assembly. The other faction of the GJM offered their support to Banerjee immediately after Gurung went into hiding in September 2017. Although they are rivals, both factions now support the Trinamool Congress.

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