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BJP was never sincere towards statehood demand: Jaswant Singh

Darjeeling :  MP Jaswant Singh stirred up a hornet’s nest by alleging the BJP was never sincere towards the demand for a Gorkhaland state. The veteran leader’s surprising disclosure comes after the party recently ejected him from its rank. Singh has chosen to contest the ongoing Lok Sabha election as an independent candidate. Arriving in his constituency on Saturday, the MP reflected on the regular disparities between himself and the saffron front, while asserting his views on the demand for Gorkhaland. He said, “It is sad the BJP has not fully accepted the statehood demand of the Darjeeling hills. The party is trying to ride on two boats over the Gorkhaland issue. I don’t know if the BJP is sincere towards the statehood demand, but I certainly am.” The former BJP veteran also said he believes the state unit of the BJP would never accept a division of Bengal. “It is a reality that the state BJP will never agree to a division. Bengal has already seen two divisions and does not want another. But I don’t view the creation of a Gorkhaland state as a division of Bengal because that is the only correct solution,” said Singh. In 2009, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha agreed to support Singh’s candidature from Darjeeling after the BJP gave assurance it would take up the statehood demand and also incorporated the issue in its election manifesto. 

Singh won the Darjeeling seat by a whopping margin. The BJP has again tied up with the GJM in the ongoing general election for the Darjeeling seat and fielded SS Ahluwalia, the party’s vice-president and a five-time parliamentarian. The mutual understanding has remained “support” for the statehood demand. Asked for his comments on whether his ouster from the BJP would estrange him with the GJM too, Singh said, “The BJP expelled me and that is the party leadership’s decision. On the other hand, the GJM is till supporting the BJP and this is the Morcha’s choice. We may have political differences, but my personal relations with the GJM will continue to remain cordial going forward. In fact, I will always support the justified demand for a Gorkhaland state in Parliament, whenever or whoever takes it up,” said the legislator while extending his best wishes to Ahluwalia. Singh, who has held portfolios in the external affairs and defence ministries, is contesting the LS election from his home town of Barmer in Rajasthan and this is his 10th political outing. 

He first stood as BJP candidate from Jodhpur in the fourth general election in 1967. “I have remained active in politics for more than 40 years and contested in nearly a dozen elections. I did not want to stand this time, but had to give in to the sentimental demand of the residents of my hometown,” he said. Responding to allegations of remaining absent from his constituency for the greater part of his tenure and his surprise visit to Darjeeling, the MP said, “With elections come allegations and it is not necessary to give answers to all of them. Meantime, I have given five years of my life to the Darjeeling hills and gained the respect, love and support of the people here. As I don’t want people to think of me as a selfish person, I have come to catch up with old friends and acquaintances.” Singh is expected to stay in Darjeeling for another three or four days and meet GJM leaders before heading back to Rajasthan.

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