Bihar Election Results And Gorkhaland

Writes: N N Ojha

Gorkhaland is once again the talk of the town. Gorkhas in the Darjeeling hills and else where in India are once again discussing ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘why not’ about Gorkhaland.

Last time it grabbed attention equally intensely was in July 2012 when the then UPA government led by Manmohan Singh as factotum for Sonia Gandhi had announced the decision to carve a new state Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh. That was understandable. On merits a favorable decision on Gorkhaland deserved to take precedence over Telangana. The demand for Gorkhaland has been far longer outstanding than the Telangana demand. The region comprising proposed Gorkhaland is far more distinct from west Bengal in terms of language, ethnicity, culture, history and geography than Telangana ever was from Andhra Pradesh. Most importantly when the last tripartite agreement between GJMM, government of India and government of west Bengal was signed there was a mass perception in the region that decision on statehood for Gorkhaland would be taken as and when decision on Telangana was taken. Therefore it was quite natural for alarm bells to ring when Telangana was declared without a whiff or whisper of Gorkhaland.

Connect between decision on Telangana leading to resurgence of the Gorkhaland issue is thus clear but what about Bihar? How does one explain the issue occupying center stage as a sequel to the Bihar election results? After all our demand for statehood entails separation from west Bengal and not Bihar. In fact we haven’t had anything to do with Bihar ever except that at one stage of our history Darjeeling district was part of Darbhanga division that is currently a part of Bihar. That by itself should be immaterial as Darbhanga like some other parts of present day Bihar, Orissa or Assam was part of the Bengal Presidency and later Bengal province during the British colonial rule and was severed from Bengal in due course of states reorganisation.

So why is Gorkhaland the talk of the town in the context of Bihar election results? Is it because of our stark dependence on the BJP to grant us Gorkhaland and the BJP’s dismal performance in Bihar? Do these results contain any lessons for the BJP and by implication hints about shape of things to come for Gorkhaland?

First, let us look at the results. For all its massive tactical planning, logistic paraphernalia, publicity blitz and the party president Amit Shah’s much hyped talk of mission 185+ BJP and its allies had to content with just 58 seats out of the 243 they contested. By itself BJP could win barely 53 out of the 159 seats it contested. The dismal performance was in spite of nearly 250 GPS enabled ‘Raths’ (modified Boleros fitted with audio visual publicity material) meant to reach some 40000 villages for canvassing across Bihar monitored on real time basis from a state of the art tracking station based in Patna and nearly 3 lakhs volunteers including Bollywood stars like Ajay Devgan drafted for the campaign.

It is another matter that unmindful of the arithmetical as well as political error of interpretation most BJP apologists still call their show very impressive in view of what they wrongly call ‘highest percentage of votes’ polled by the party.

Be that as it might. Let us see if the results contain any lessons for the BJP or for our dream of Gorkhaland. In so far as lessons for BJP are concerned I have no intention of wasting much time as firstly Gorkhaland and not BJP or Bihar is my main concern and secondly most BJP sympathisers have of late become so edgy that they immediately start calling you names if you point out any shortcomings in their party or leaders even with the best of intentions. I will therefore touch upon the lessons for BJP only to the extent they impact Gorkhaland.

What are the lessons for BJP having a direct bearing on Gorkhaland? Three lessons I guess; power of the regional political forces, benefits of a broad based coalition and electoral gains of a well calculated social engineering. While evaluating the benefits of broad based alliance with the regional forces I am leaving aside any moral presuppositions or value judgement and simply looking at the pragmatic dynamics of a political decision. I am also leaving aside the social engineering planned and executed by either side except that the state government’s decision to grant ‘caste certificates’ to upper caste Hindu and Muslim children on income based criteria, moving some OBCs to EBC and EBCs to the SC/ST category along with the attendant benefits and approving financial grant to some more Madarsas perhaps proved more effective than the central government’s decision to declare some districts of Bihar as ‘backward districts’ carrying tax rebates. One single lesson from the moves; sops benefiting an individual directly have greater impact than any collective gains for a group. We may however ignore this as overwhelming majority of people (I am not sure of the leaders though) in the region are actually keen on Gorkhaland and not for any individual gains.

Are there other lessons for us in the whole story? Yes, at least four. First, to be able to figure in the political reckoning of larger national level parties we have to be seen as a powerful regional political player which is possible only if all of us across party lines are united at least on one issue, namely, the demand for Gorkhaland. It was because of this one voice that BJP’s Jaswant Singh had a cakewalk in the 2009 general elections and the three MLAs from hills could make it to the state assembly with impressive margins two years later in 2011. During 2014 election campaign if BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi had to publically declare that Gorkhas dream was his dream it was solely due to the perception that everyone in the hills was united in the demand for Gorkhaland..

Second lesson for us, we have to in our own interest get out of the ‘BJP only’ mindset. Because of our stark dependence on BJP they have, it seems, started taking us for granted. How else does one explain complete lack of follow up on the PM’s assurances that our dream is his dream and absolutely no interest shown by our MP to move forward on the only issue that got him into the parliament on our vote. Let us make it clear to the BJP that in the forthcoming state assembly elections we shall support them only if the party moves a resolution for creation of Gorkhaland or at least our MP moves a private member’s bill on the subject. Reaction to such a motion will make it clear as to who is with us and who is against, so that in the state elections in 2016 we vote accordingly.

Third lesson, we must learn to bargain hard with whosoever we align, get their commitments for our cause in black and white and widely circulate the written compact among the masses so that in the event of any post election ditching no one is able to confuse through deceitful lies.

Fourth lesson, we must know our own worth and learn to value ourselves. If we are united the larger national political parties shall need us more than we might need them. No political party howsoever big or resourceful can win even a panchayat ward election in the hills if we decide to unite on the issue of Gorkhaland and vote enbloc for whosoever agrees to support us. Let us make use of this unique strength of ours and declare unambiguously that we shall allow only those parties to politically survive in the region who support the creation of Gorkhaland and agree to a time bound plan of action to be made public beforehand. To the BJP whom we have already helped gain an MP on our strength let us make clear that further support including support in the coming state election shall depend only on the party moving the Gorkhaland resolution in the Parliament.

Let us not go by the party’s lame excuse that it can’t move on the issue of Gorkhaland as it doesn’t have adequate strength in the Rajya Sabha. You move the resolution so that even if it falls in the Rajya Sabha we will at least know who are with us, and, who against and shall deal suitably with those opposed to our dream.

In all these lessons there is a crucial ‘if’, i.e. if we are united. By being united we can turn the lessons into opportunities. If divided the lesson may in fact expose chinks in our armor and prove counterproductive. The basic question therefore is are we united or are we ready to get united. Answer to this question shall determine the future for Gorkhaland and our coming generations.

Source The Darjeeling Times

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