Taming The Beast – Now, TMC May Shring-la?

Taming the Beast

“Taming the Beast” discusses the BJP candidacy for Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat and asserts that people are tired of one-term MPs, they are in favour of contnuity of issues and leadership

In 2019, after the voting phase of the election was over, a local TMC funded marketing-portal had asked “where’s the beast”? in reference to Raju Bista. A typical Darjeeling quip, which, I remember made me smile.

Five years down the road, I must confess, Raju Bista has indeed gone onto become the “beast of burden” for our people, and our entire region. Being a student of politics, I have watched Raju Bista’s entry and the way he has worked for our region, especially for the Gorkha cause, with a keen interest.

I find him to be a sincere and dedicated politician, who has worked with due dedication and a rare honesty towards addressing both the developmental needs, and political aspirations of our people. Be it his outreach among the most remote and economically marginalised sections and families, providing relief and support during the COVID crisis, helping students and youths outside the constituency, providing support to those outside India, helping medical patients, to even paying for their funeral, Raju Bista has exemplified leadership.

It is because of his youthful energy that many of the major infrastructural deficiencies of our region, are being addressed at a pace much faster than ever before. Be it the construction of the elevated highway corridor from Balason to Sevoke Army cantonment, Ring Road around Siliguri, Alternative Highway to Darjeeling, Re-development of Bagdogra Airport, alternative to Coronation bridge, and numerous rural road projects, improvement of healthcare facilities, conservation of our environment, demand for Central Univeristy, AIIMS, converting Darjeeling and Kalimpong District Hospital to medical colleges Bista has requested the Ministers concerned, followed it up with requests raised in the Parliament, and multiple reminders to the higher-ups. 

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It may be another five or ten years before people actually get to see fruits of Raju Bista’s labour, in the form of physical infrastructure being built and completed, but he has laid the foundation work for major transformation of infrastructure in our region.

But more importantly, he has constantly reminded the central government their commitment to fulfilling the political issue concerning our region permanently, and ensuring the re-inclusion of 11 left-out Gorkha sub-tribes as Schedule Tribes in every session of the Parliament. Raju Bista has emerged as a vocal, and outspoken champion of the people’s aspirations from Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars region.

And perhaps this is what makes New Delhi uncomfortable.

Bhumiputra vs Bhumi for the Putras and Putris

Despite claims to contrary, it is clear that the BJP central leadership and also BJP West Bengal Unit have not been sincere towards Gorkha aspirations. So definitely they are not happy with Raju Bista constantly raking up the PPS and Gorkha ST issue. It makes them uncomfortable, when a youthful MP reminds them of their constant failure to address these issues. So they would rather have a “Maun-Mohan” than a “Modi” among their ranks. They would rather have someone who strictly toes the party line, and avoids contentious issues like PPS and Gorkha ST.

Hence, there is a very strong rumor going around that BJP central leadership is seeking to replace Raju Bista with Harshavardhan Shringla.

Mr. Shringla, is the former foreign secretary of India, no less. He comes from a family of diplomats, with his aunt Chokila Iyer being the first female foreign secretary of India. So definitely he has enough pull in the power corridors of Delhi to swing the bat his way.

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It is interesting that he has been projected, mostly by TMC sleeper-cells, as the “Bhumiputra” candidate. Even though he was born in Maharashtra, studied outside Darjeeling all his life, and wasn’t known to visit Darjeeling much. Interestingly this same “Bhumiputra” narrative has earlier been used by TMC candidate Amar Rai in 2019 and failed.

But, does the rise of “Bhumiputra” assure Bhumi for the Putra and Putris?

That is a question, which may find answer in that, more than local BJP party organisation, supporters or common people, the lobbying for Shringla’s candidature and narrative generation on his behalf, has been mostly done by TMC sleeper-cells and their friends in the media.

Mr. Shringla may be BJP central leadership’s choice, but this much I can say, he is definitely not the choice of the masses in our region. Majority of the people I have spoken to regarding possible BJP candidacy, cringe when they hear Mr. Shringla could be BJP’s choice.

In Shringla, it seems that both BJP Central leadership and TMC have found a neutral candidate, who will not rock the political boat with constant reminder for PPS or Gorkha ST issue, who will toe the party line, and add another feather to his personal cap by becoming the MoS in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Side-lining our Aspirations

For the first time in decades, Darjeeling has finally found a Member of Parliament, who works hard, is known to be corruption free, easily accessible and fearless. In trying to side-line him, BJP central leadership is perhaps hoping to side-line the Gorkha aspirations too.

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Will the people of Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars allow BJP to run-roughshod from Delhi? Highly unlikely.

Darjeeling will likely see a rebellion, if BJP central leadership decides to shove their choice down the throat of the people. Common people are tired of one-term MPs; they want their current MP to continue his good work, and to continue raising the Gorkha demands.

It is up to the BJP central leadership to decide, if they want to encourage performance and hard-work or political expediency?

But they should be ready for the consequences of their action, if the actions go against the people. No one should take public support for granted.

Taming the Beast

About the Author

Upendra M Pradhan
Upendra is a political analyst based in Darjeeling. He writes columns for national dailies and is the Editor-at-Large here at The Darjeeling Chronicle

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