Centre slammed for 'fuelling speculation' on Gorkhaland

Non-BJP parties slam Centre for 'fuelling speculation' on Gorkhaland ahead of polls

Non-BJP parties in West Bengal on Wednesday came down heavily on the BJP government at the Centre for "fuelling speculation" over demands for a separate Gorkhaland, ahead of assembly polls, and said it was "playing with fire" to serve vested political interests.

The BJP, however, dubbed the allegations as "baseless" and said the central government just wants a "permanent solution" to the political crisis.

The Union Home Ministry convened a tripartite meeting on Wednesday to discuss "issues related to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA)", officials said.

A delegation of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) met Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy and sought the creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland, comprising Darjeeling and its adjoining areas in West Bengal.

However, no representative of the West Bengal government attended the meeting.

GJM (Bimal Gurung faction) working president Lopsang Lama said the outfit has submitted a memorandum demanding that Gorkhaland be carved out of Bengal.

Slamming the Union government's move, the TMC dispensation in the state asked the central leaders to come clean on whether they want a "division of the state".

"Every time we approach an election, the BJP raises the Gorkhaland issue to create disturbance in the Hills. This is yet another move. The BJP should come clean on whether they want a division of the state... They should stop beating around the bush," Gautam Deb, the state tourism minister and senior TMC leader from north Bengal, said.

The Mamata Banerjee-led party also claimed that it was a just another attempt by the BJP to create "confusion", as Union Home Minister Amit Shah skipped Wednesday's meeting.

"Had it been a serious meeting, the Union home minister would have attended it instead of sending MoS home. This only reflects that the BJP is trying to create confusion ahead of polls. Gorkhaland will never happen, as our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already said," senior TMC leader Sougato Roy said.

The opposition Congress and the CPI(M), too, echoed the TMC and said the saffron camp was trying to fuel a separatist movement.

"The BJP is playing with fire to serve its political interest. Earlier, the TMC did the same thing to come to power. We feel that there should be autonomy as per constitutional provisions. But in no way, Bengal should be divided," CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.

The BJP, however, said the allegations levelled against it were bereft of truth.

"We want a permanent political solution to this crisis, which has been going on for several decades. Neither the erstwhile Left Front government nor the present TMC government is interested in a political solution. They want the problem to linger as it furthers their political agenda," BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.

The picturesque Darjeeling had time and again witnessed violent agitation over the demand for a separate state, the latest being in June 2017, when the Hills saw a 104-day-long strike over the issue.

The strike also led to a split in the GJM, with Binay Tamang, once deputy to the outfit's supremo Bimal Gurung, taking over the reins of the party and expelling the boss.

Since then the GJM faction led by Gurung had aligned with the BJP, and the other camp, headed by Tamang, joined hands with the ruling TMC in the state.

Anit Thapa, a loyalist of Tamang, is currently the chairman of the GTA board of administrators.

"The Centre has called a meeting as assembly polls are due next year. This is just a political move. Had they been serious they would have invited us too," Thapa said.

Assembly elections in Bengal are likely to be held in April-May next year.