Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Gorkha votes head for split in electoral battle in West Bengal's Darjeeling

The locals are unhappy with BJP’s failure to come out with a “permanent political solution” for the vexed Gorkhaland issue, even though the saffron party kept the hope alive for separate small states.
alyan Ray
Last Updated : 21 April 2024, 15:37 IST
Last Updated : 21 April 2024, 15:37 IST

Follow Us :


Darjeeling: At Darjeeling’s Iconic Mall, even as a steady stream of tourists flock in, there are barely any talks about the Gorkhaland movement and the violent days that the Queen of the Hills had witnessed.

But in the political discourse, the issue of having a separate state is back in focus ahead of the 2024 parliamentary polls.

Also, more than four decades after the agitation that led to the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, the polls may for the first time witness a split in the Gorkha votes, which has been the determining factor in all these years.

Since the 1980s, the Gorkha vote used to move in bulk towards one side, benefiting BJP since the 2009 general elections. A break was seen in 2019 when Gorkhaland issue was not the priority and there was a Modi wave. This time a split in the vote bank looks imminent.

The locals are unhappy with BJP’s failure to come out with a “permanent political solution” for the vexed Gorkhaland issue, even though the saffron party kept the hope alive by batting for separate small states.

“For the first time since the days of Subhash Ghising (the founder of Gorkha National Liberation Front), there will be a split in Gorkha votes. Also, Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha – a coalition partner of BJP - is not a major political force anymore,” said S Sharma, a local who has been following the hill politics for over two decades.

BJP MP Raju Bista, who is seeking re-election from the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, said the “process of finding a permanent political solution for the Darjeeling hills has begun and will be achieved within the next five years". But such promises were made earlier too.

“People are disappointed with the leaders who dangle the Gorkhaland issue as a carrot before every election. They think the leaders are not sincere,” a woman resident said, who doesn’t want to be identified as she is a government employee.

In addition, there is an emergence of two new Gorkha parties – Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) and Humro Party – which performed well in the 2022 municipal and GTA elections.

For the Lok Sabha polls, BGPM has allied with the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which fielded retired local bureaucrat Gopal Lama as its candidate.

The Humro Party, led by Ajay Edwards, tied up with the Congress and brought in Delhi-based professor Munish Tamang as the third force. Darjeeling along with two other seats in the northern part of West Bengal will go for the polls on April 26.

In the 1980s, the Gorkhaland agitation began in the Darjeeling hills with a demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The main reasons are the differences in ethnicity, culture and language as the cultural identity of people belonging to the Nepali Indian Gorkha origin is very different from the Bengali culture.

There has also been discontentment on BJP para-dropping outsiders like Jaswant Singh, S S Ahluwalia and Bista as Darjeeling candidates. Kurseong BJP MLA Bishnu Prasad Sharma, a local, is contesting as an independent.

The parliamentary constituency comprises of seven assemblies – Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Matigara-Naxalbari, Siliguri, Phansidewa and Chopra with Gorkha population dominating the first four.

Sharma, Tamang and Lama can put a dent in the vote bank, which benefited the saffron camp in the last three polls.

Published 21 April 2024, 15:37 IST

Deccan Herald is on WhatsApp Channels | Join now for Breaking News & Editor's Picks

Follow us on :

Follow Us