Monday, May 25, 2009

National Political Thought and Initiative The Next Step of the Gorkhas by Narendra Raut


National Political Thought and Initiative The Next Step of the Gorkhas 
by Narendra RautKalimnews: Updated as on 22 May 2009: 


Lok Sabha polls,2009 and the Indian Gorkhas: The Lok Sabha polls have become a memorable milestone for the Indian Gorkhas. The elections of India have taught the Gorkhas a vital lesson in one aspect or the other.
Different nature of Gorkhaland demand: Creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland is the prominent demand of the Gorkhas of India at present. This demand has been raised in different forms till date. This was used as the vote bank, this was used for killing own brethren, this demand was used in the political dramas in the past etc. This is not appropriate time to recall these facts but the topic is different here.

The old demand was not for separate state but for separate administrative system: 
Though the age of the demand has attained 102 years, yet the intellectuals do not prefer to give more emphasize to the old facts. Most of the people use to say that the demand of Gorkhaland dates back to 1907. Actually it is not an established fact and it is not advisable to make such unauthentic matter the basis to raise any demand. Earlier it was a petty demand to make the hills a separate administrative unit. Hence a voice was said to have risen in the year 1907. However, no written document is available to prove this fact. After 1917 similar demands had been made in the course of history and they were appropriate at that time. The written materials in this regard are available. There is no mention of a separate state of Gorkhaland since it was not possible in pre-independence era as the federal structure of India was drawn up only after the independence of this country. If let the history be a basis of any demand then the documents suggest that there was a strong voice demanding merger of Darjeeling hills with the Himalayan kingdom Nepal. Why only 1907? Why only Sugauly Treaty? Why not earlier than this cut-off year? If history is to be regarded as the basis of any demand then it may be traced back to pre-historic age also. The other communities may also highlight the history of 1917 when the infamous incident of Jalianwala Bagh had taken place.

History may be the basis but not the reason:
 Prof. Munish Tamang, Secretary, Central Programme Cell, Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh while taking part in a programme organised by the Kalimpong Press Club, at Ramkrishna Hall in November, 2008 had viewed in this line. According to Prof. Tamang the Govt. would never ask the leaders of agitation as to how old the demand is or whether there was any treaty/pact with neighbour states in the history to make a new state of Gorkhaland. His view was asserted by Jaswant Singh, a BJP candidate from the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat on 18 April, 2009 from the same dais. He was of the view that the case would be more complicated if we dig the old events. It does not mean that we should not refer to the history. But the history may be a basis, not reason. The demand of Gorkhaland is not raised due to any particular historical reason. But the historical reasons are also responsible for making demand of Gorkhaland.

The demand of Gorkhaland is a political subject: The demand of Gorkhaland is totally a political subject. The subjects like boundary lines, state re-organisation are not untouchable from the politics. And how can a demand be apolitical which is decided by the highest law making body i.e. Parliament. Hence, the demand of the Gorkhaland is wholly political one. Now it would be not out of context to understand the present political situation of the country.


Present political scenario of India : What kind of political polarization is India having at present? The old Indian polity was Congress oriented. Later, the non-Congress political forces started to rise. Today different political forces are visible in the national scenario. Numerable regional political parties are in existence in the South India and similar forces are active in North India also. The regional political parties have also been able to establish their identity in North-Eastern parts of India. AIADMK, DMK, Telugu Desam, Praja Rajyam, Biju Janta Dal, Shiv Sena, MGP, Akali Dal, Hurriyat Conference, National Conference, Assam Gana Parishad, Bodo People's Front, Mizo National Front, Sikkim Democratic Front etc. are such territorial political parties that bear impact in respective regions. On the other hand, BSP, SP, Trinamool Congress, LGP, NCP, RJD etc. have been able to occupy prominence in the national political equation. Due to emergence of regional political parties, no single party seems to be able to enjoy monopoly in the centre now. It seems to be far from reality to form a govt. either by the oldest political outfit Congress or its political enemy BJP in the prevailing situation in India. The nature of composition of the last coalition Govt. like UPA and NDA amply proves this fact. It is, therefore, not possible to form govt. without the assistance of other regional political parties mentioned above.

Impact of regional political parties: The value of regional political parties will not reduce even if any largest political party (Congress or BJP) crosses the magic figure (272) and forms the govt. in centre. The regional political outfits would make utmost effort to pressurise the centre by raising their zonal demands and they would be successful in this act.

Political situation of the Gorkhas: The main agenda of this write-up is to discuss the political situation of the Indian Gorkhas. The Gorkhas are the only human species in India having spread throughout the country. But the Gorkhas are not united politically. Yes, the Gorkhas have an influential role in the North-East and they are effectively visible in some parts of North India. But they have become puppet in the hands of other political parties till date. The Gorkhas have become supporters of different political organisations and also been decisive factors during the time of elections to write the fate various candidates. However, the Gorkhas have not been able to get united politically for their own motive. They are not aware of the political power they possess. It would not be out of context to say that the majority of the Gorkhas of India are not even conscious of their political strength. In contrary, they are raising such a demand which is totally political in nature - the demand of Gorkhaland.

Gorkhaland in the Parliament:
 The bill of Gorkhaland is to be passed by the majority in the Parliament. Analyzing the fact the UPA in the centre being the largest party alone would not be in a position to bring the motion for Gorkhaland in the Parliament nor the NDA. Congress has recently included 'fulfillment of regional aspirations' in its manifesto and this party is also of the view that smaller administrative units like states are essential to benefit the grass root people. It does not mean that the party has accepted the demand of Gorkhaland. While the BJP had decorated its manifesto 15-20 years back with the phrase of 'new smaller states'. It is not a fact that the BJP has pronounced the name of Gorkhaland in its latest manifesto. However, this party has promised to sympathetically consider and appropriately look into the long pending demand of the Gorkha, Adivasi and other communities of Darjeeling and Dooars.

Coalition Govt. and Common Minimum Programme: The issue of Common Minimum Programme (CMP) would take a gigantic size as soon as the coalition govt forwards its programme. It is the list of the political programmes that are common to all the constituents of ruling coalition. There may be some unseen understandings among the coalition constituents for their 'larger political interests'.

14th Lok Sabha and proposal of Telengana state: 
It would be relevant to draw attention about the 14th Lok Sabha and the issue of Telengana state. Congress had included the demand of Telengana state in its manifesto and reached out a political understanding with the TRC, a protagonist of the statehood demand. Despite the support of TRC's MPs to the Congress led NDA Govt. the demand of Telengana could not be seen in the CMP list due to the existence of anti-Telengana forces also in the same Govt. Therefore the dream of creation of a separate Telengana state could not be materialised inspite of back ups like recommendation of State Re-organisation Commission, State Govt's green signal and strength of more than half dozen of MPs.

Gorkhaland and Common Minimum Programme:
 Let us presume, the BJP led Govt. came into force in the centre this time or NDA formed the Govt. In such situation all the constituent units of the NDA have to prepare a consensus list of common agenda of their respective parties and the Govt would try to materialise these. Now the question is that whether the demand of Gorkhaland could be included in the CMP. Given the fact the demand being not matured one in the national political arena and considering the prevalent political situation of India the chance of inclusion of the sub-title called creation of separate state of Gorkhaland in the list of CMP is very remote.

Gorkhaland in the Parliament: There is no possibility of this demand to be passed if an individual MP raises his voice in the Parliament at his own level, because the subject needs wide range discussion. If a Private Member Bill is introduced in the Parliament the number one anti-Gorkhaland political coalition led by CPM could run pillar to post to oppose the bill and demand its referral to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. Hence at present juncture, it is not only impossible to calculate the fate of this demand in the Parliament but also not easy to presume its future right now.

Political role of Gorkhas in All-India basis: Now let us discuss a little about the political character of Gorkhas in India. The subject of political unification of the Gorkhas has gained prominence at present. There is a tradition to turn focus in the politics of Darjeeling as and when the subject of Gorkha unification drive comes forward. No, it is not the unity of GJM, CPRM, ABGL etc. but the political unity of the Gorkhas of India as a whole. The political unity does never mean that all the Gorkhas should come under the banner of a single political outfit and raise the demand of Gorkhaland. The Gorkhas of India are in a position to involve in political activities in accordance to their local context. In some parts of India the Gorkhas are in a position to decide the fate of different political candidates in the time of the elections. The Gorkhas can even field their own candidate and win the battle in some parts. They can also contest elections as consensus candidate of national/regional political parties. For instance the Gorkhas can contest as Congress candidate in some parts of North-East. Similarly, they can get the BJP or AGP tickets in some parts of Assam. If it is not possible to involve in the direct elections the Gorkhas can also play a vital role to influence the major political party as vote bank. And they can make a particular candidate winner if he supports and helps out the demand of Gorkhas. It would be appropriate to clarify here that the demand and issue should not be related to the regional aspiration but it should be concerned with the demand of Gorkhaland which is the national aspiration of the Gorkhas.

Need of the National Political Organisation of the Gorkhas:
 Considering the above facts and figures, it has now been the need of the hour to initiate to act in the direction of forming a national level political organisation of the Indian Gorkhas. The national level political outfit with a single name but able to act as per the prevailing local/regional political situation. The Gorkha party can play an effective role by fielding own candidate in some parts or by supporting Congress/BJP/other parties as the case may be in other parts. This initiative would definitely draw the attention of nation as the Gorkhas would be visible in the mainstream politics also.

Prominent role of Sikkim state: The view of Sikkim state towards the demand of Gorkhaland has been positive since very beginning. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members from Sikkim could comfortably raise the demand of Gorkhaland in their respective houses. This state could play the role of a guardian of the Gorkhas not only hailing from the proposed Gorkhaland but also the spread throughout the country.

Role of non-Gorkha MPs: Similarly the Gorkhas could accumulate the support of those MPs of North-East and other parts of India who enjoy the confidence of the Gorkha votes. In this manner, after assembling the Gorkha MPs, Gorkhaland lover MPs the Gorkhas could also work with those political forces that are demanding smaller and separate states in various corners of India. Then the number of MPs could be very large. The support of independent MPs who are sympathetic towards the demand of Gorkhaland could also be mobilized then. By this way, an influential coterie of a sizeable number of MPs could be formed and the voice in favour of separate state be made heard in the Parliament of India.

Political parties of Darjeeling: The role of Darjeeling centric political outfits is observed to be very meaningful in this juncture. Many political parties are active in Darjeeling hills at present. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist top the list while the Bharatiya Janta Pary, National Congress, CPI/M, GNLF/C, Gorkha Rastriya Congress, Sikkim Rastriya Morcha etc. are other outfits. Some of these parties are found little active, some are existing for name sake, some are surviving on the basis of Press Releases, some do not have their organisational basis also, some is called one-man party due to absence of registered supporters. However, except CPI/M all these parties have supported the cause of Gorkhaland demand in their own way. Besides, CPM/ML, CPI/ML-Lib, AIFB, RSP, BSP etc. also use to surface in Darjeeling hills mostly during the time of elections. Some of them even demonstrate their sympathy towards the demand of Gorkhaland directly or indirectly.

Anti-Gorkhaland CPI/M and its Gorkha leaders: The blind opposition to the demand of Gorkhaland is the CPI/M. Most of the District committee members of the CPI/M are from the Gorkha community who are also oppossed to this demand of Gorkhaland. Obviously, they are oppossing this demand due to political obligation. To oppose the demand of Gorkhaland has become a political and individual prestige issue for them. They also prefer formation of Gorkhaland from the core of their heart as they have been the racil victim in the CPI/M in time to time. There are plenty of instances to suggest the political/racial discrimination within the CPI/M as most of the Bengali speaking leaders regard West Bengal as nation and not a unit of federal India. Thus the Gorkha leaders in the CPI/M have become victim of Bengali dominated Marxism since a long. But the Gorkha CPI/M leaders do not make the fact public due to obvious reasons.

Opposition of Gorkhaland: an emotional wave : The Gorkha CPI/M leaders have already become aware of the fact that the Bengali emotion is behind to opposse the demand of Gorkhaland. Hence they frequently use the term 'division of Bengal' (Banga-Bhanga) to stop the formation of separate state of Gorkhaland. Yes, it is a fact that the state of Bengal (West Bengal now) has been divided in a number of times if the political scenario of last century is studied. It would definitely put salt on the wound if the crown of Bengal i.e. Darjeeling/Dooars is made separate once more. Therefore, they oppose the demand of Gorkhaland tooth and nail on the pretext of national integration. Otherwise, why they don't oppose the similar demand of separate states being raised in other parts of the country if they consider themselves to be the champion of so called Indian patriotism?

Gorkhaland and national integration:
 Formation of Gorkhaland does never mean a threat to the national integration of India. Everyone is aware of this fact. It is clearly understood that the Bengali speaking CPI/M regard Bengal as their country and term it as golden place (Sonar Bengal). But with the passage of time, now a fact is being surfaced that all the Bengalese are not against the demand of Gorkhaland. The mindset of the Bengali people has now started to change. A section of fundamental racial and politically interested Bengalese are found against the demand and their number is higher in side. As the majority of the Bengali people are in the opposition side the entire scene seems to be anti-Gorkhaland which is not a fact.

Support of conscious Bengali towards Gorkhaland : A number of intellectual Bengali people have started to come forward to support the cause of Gorkhaland state. Not only the political outfits but the individuals like Somen Nag, Barun Roy, Sukhmay Chaterjee and more youths and neutral personalities are not only extending their support towards the demand of Gorkhaland but also found involved in variety of activities in favour the longpending demand of Gorkhas. It may be pointed out that well known Bengali scholars had organised an effective seminar on the topic of Gorkhaland at Jadhavpur University sometime in 2008 which was participated by R.B. Rai, C.K. Shrestha and other pro-Gorkhaland leaders.

Historical step of CPRM and present scenario : Why the Gorkha CPI/M leaders still hesitate to support the cause of Gorkhaland which is being favoured by at least some of the Bengali speaking people? This has become a million dollar question now. One historical event may be recalled here that when a large number of Gorkha CPI/M leaders had revolted against the racist Bengali domination in the party and formed CPRM some 12-13 years back. The Gorkhas of CPRM are still criticised for their role of taking side of the Bengal centric politics during the time of the then Gorkhaland agitation. A few political parties in the hills still level the charge of anti-Gorkhaland to the CPRM. But this situation is like a comeback of son who was outside since a long, to his home. When R.B. Rai and his comrades witnessed the formation of three new states (Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh) in India then they also raised the voice in favour of Gorkhaland within their party circle. But the non-Gorkha leaders of the CPI/M did not consider this proposal which ultimately resulted revolution within the party and formation of a new Marxist political outfit in the name of CPRM which comprised the Nepali speaking Gorkhas of Darjeeling hills and Dooars. In other words, CPRM could also be referred as Gorkha Communist Party. Hence the Gorkha CPI/M leaders/cadres prefered to give up the facilities being enjoyed by them by virtue of their closeness with the ruling party of the state (West Bengal) and challenged the racial attitude of the fundamental Bengali CPI/M. Darjeeling hills has a history of such a sacrifice of Gorkha CPI/M in one hand and on other hand there are still a few Gorkha leaders bearing Marxist ideology who prefer to remain sticked with the anti-Gorkhaland CPI/M. Though, they know that their funeral procession is to be attended by the Gorkhas of their own. They have also witnessed the die-hard feeling of racism within the Bengal edition of Marxism. But it is not clear as to what compulsions is leading them to continue in such a racist group which does not respect and consider the legitimacy of minority Gorkhas in West Bengal.

Golden opportunity before the Gorkha CPI/M : Today a golden and most probably last opportunity has come in the hands of the Gorkha CPI/M leaders to support the demand of Gorkhaland. They need not join hands with the CPRM for this purpose and even not required to surrender before other political outfit of Darjeeling hills. They have golden chance to raise the voice in favour of Gorkhaland by remaining within the CPI/M itself. They should now think the Regional Autonomy as advertised by the CPI/M during the time of every elections, also does not fulfill the aspirations if the small state of Gorkhaland is not enough to redress the problems of the hill/Dooars people as claimed by communists. They can also work in favour of Gorkhaland without splitting from their parent body CPI/M. They would be able to regain their lost glory and honour if they bring a resolution in favour of separate state of Gorkhaland in the district level committee of the party and forward it to the State committee and politburo.

Racial discrimination in the CPI/M : Why did the CPI/M break the tradition to field a Nepali speaking Gorkha candidate from the Darjeeling parliamentary constituency this time? Were S.P. Lepcha, Tulshi Bhattarai, K.B. Watar, Tara Sundas not able to become an MP candidate from the hills? Is there any guarantee if the so-called sympathiser of Nepali speaking Gorkhas of Darjeeling would continue Mani Thapa to enjoy the present post after the forthcoming elections to the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad? Who can claim that Saman Pathak would re-nominated Rajya Sabha member from Darjeeling? The tradition of branding the Gorkha CPI/M leaders as racial elements has already begun in the Bengal CPI/M. Why the Gorkhas have not been able to become a member of the CPI/M politburo so far despite their contribution to form this organisation in India? This is because the day one Gorkha leader occupies the post in politburo he would definitely favour the demand the creation of separate state of Gorkhaland as per the ideology of right to self determination prevailing in the communism which cannot be refused by any real communist leader. Hence, the practice of racial discrimination is prevalent in the Bengal centric Marxism. No one has stopped Anand Pathak, Saman Pathak, Mani Thapa, Tulshi Bhattarai, Tara Sundas, S.P. Lepcha, Ramashanker Prasad to work for Gorkhaland as members of CPI/M itself. If they could raise the voice in favour of Regional Autonomy what is the problem in doing so for a little upgraded separate state.

Feeling of 'Banga-Bhanga' an emotional one :
 There is no room open for emotion in the politics. If the CPI/M raises the issue of internal security to oppose the demand of Gorkhaland to avoid further division of Bengal then it is up to the centre Govt. to deal with this as the subject does not fall under the state list. How can the CPI/M divert the demand as a concern of internal security when the centre has not seen it as separatist movement? Such questions can be raised by the CPI/M leaders of Gorkha origin in their party level. By way of providing support from within the CPI/M the party can also safeguard its place in the political sphere of proposed new state of Gorkhaland. The ultra-racist Bengali people have not spared Anand Pathak, Tulshi Bhattarai, Mani Thapa while branding the Gorkhas as immigrants, infiltrators, foreigners etc. They have not said that except Tara Sundas and S.P. Lepcha all Gorkhas are foreigners.

Socialist background in Darjeeling : 
Most of the people of Darjeeling/Dooars, majority of which is covered by the tea-gardens, are wage earners by profession and they still believe in the socialism and Marxism. The areas of Darjeeling/Dooars are still dominated by the suppressed, oppressed, deprived and marginalised classes. They were of the view since the inception of the communist ideology in this region that the socialism would definitely uplift them. The figure of the number of Communist MPs and MLAs being elected by the hill people in the past would amply proves this fact. Majority of the hill people hailed from the lower income group and middle class section prior to the GNLF led agitation were followers of the red flag party. It was a social and racial obligation to raise the demand of a separate state under the banner of GNLF. Had the Bengal Govt. passed a resolution in favour of a separate state and forwarded it to the centre earlier, there would have been a Marxist Govt. in the neighbouring state i.e. Gorkhaland and number of Left Front states in India could be raised to four from existing three.

Communists are not anti-Gorkhaland: 
Today there is growing perception that the Communists are anti-Gorkhaland, which is not true. CPI/M which is a prominent constituent of the Left Front is opposed to Gorkhaland demand. It is the political obligation of the CPI/M to protest against the demand of new state in Darjeeling/Dooars only. They are opposing the demand of Gorkhaland only and recognising the similar demands in other parts of the country. Now it is clear that the CPI/M is only against the so-called 'Banga-Bhanga' and not against the Andhra-Bhanga, Uttar Pradesh Bhanga, Maharastra Bhanga etc. It is a different issue whether the demand of Gorkhaland is a subject of further division of Bengal or not. At this time, the historical basis could be made a weapon in favour of Gorkhaland.
Turn of BJP and Congress in Darjeeling : Now let us hope that the Gorkha CPI/M leaders of Darjeeling would favour the demand of Gorkhaland and send their proposal to the higher end of the party. Similarly, the district units of BJP and Congress should not feel ashamed to bring motion in their respective unit and forward to the high command. There are a large number of Gorkhas and the members of other non-Gorkha communities in the Congress and BJP who reserve sympathy towards the demand of Gorkhaland.


CPI/M : anti-Constitution party :
 In due course, a political suit could be initiated against the CPI/M in national level by branding it as the anti-Constitution party since the demand of Gorkhaland bears back up of the provision of the Indian Constitution while the CPI/M is protesting against it. All the anti-CPI/M political outfits could extend their support in this mission. This event could bring a political havoc in the Marxism in India. Then a clear cut picture could be visible to prove that the Marxist are only against the formation of Gorkhaland state whereas the real communism has recognised the theory of self determination. In fact the central CPI/M leadership are also not well aware of the ground reality of political situation of Darjeeling hills as they are being misled by the regional leaders as in the case of 6th schedule issue when the state of West Bengal had misinformed the Centre. Actually, to oppose the demand of Gorkhaland is to defy the communism. Hence the communists of Bengal have no right to claim to be the socialists in real term.

Political unification of Gorkhas : Last Alternative : Let us discuss about the formation of a national political party of the Indian Gorkhas. In view of the present political scenario this is the only feasible alternative. Though the task is difficult it is, yet, not impossible. If it is possible to start a social organisation in national level there is no difficulty to form a political outfit also. It would only be an effective way to create political pressure in national level to pursue the demand of Gorkhaland. Gorkhas can form own party where they are stronghold and maintain understanding with other political parties where they are in influential position.

15th Lok Sabha Election :
 Achievement of Gorkhas : It was a national achievement for the Gorkhas to include the outstanding demand and regional aspiration in their manifestoes by the BJP and Congress. The NDA Govt. in the centre headed by INC is not that concerned to the regional problems like creation of separate states.

Political willingness and Gorkhaland : It is not mandatory to create a separate state only after inclusion of its nomenclature in the political manifesto. Above all it is the political will of the national parties that is responsible to create a new state. The states of Uttarakhand, Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand were not the result of political manifesto.

Simple majority is enough :
 To form a separate state of Gorkhaland is easier than to include Nepali language in the VIIIth schedule of the Constitution. Since the Gorkhas have already affected the herculean task of recognizing Nepali language in the prescribed schedule it is very much easy to them to create a separate state of Gorkhaland if they take initiative in right direction. It is not necessary to amend the Constitution to form a new state as the proviso are already laid down. It is also not obligatory to seek the ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the concerned state, West Bengal in this case, before producing the bill in the parliament. Rather, it would be helpful to the process if concerned assembly's resolutions from other Gorkha dominated states could be passed and forwarded to the centre for speedy redressing the case.

Conclusion : Finally, the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls have definitely taught a lesson to the Gorkhas of India that it has become the need of the hour to initiate step to make themselves politically visible in the national level.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jas-Want to take hills on hope rideAnand Soondas Thursday April 30, 2009, Times of India



In most parts of Darjeeling, the Nepalis there either don’t know who BJP candidate Jaswant Singh is or don’t care about him. This time, though, as a farcical campaign comes to an end and the local people line up at the polling booths, an overwhelming majority will vote for him – all in the belief that the "party with the lotus symbol’’ will help create Gorkhaland if it comes to power at the Center.
Hoisted by a completely foolish Gorkha Janmukti Morcha think-tank and it’s equally at-sea leader Bimal Gurung, who would have been far better off nominating a local candidate for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, a sure-shot win for it especially after the fall of maverick leader Subhash Ghising and the marginalisation of his Gorkha National Liberation Front, Jaswant’s entire campaign was pitched to convey the sense to a gullible mountain population that this is the man for the long cherished dream of Gorkhaland, a separate homeland away from West Bengal.
But unknown to them, BJP party president Rajnath Singh in an exclusive to an English daily coming out from Chandigarh has now cleared the air and "denied any commitment to Gorkhaland." He has been quoted saying, "We have not talked of separate Gorkhaland. We have only said we will consider all the provisions of the GJM’s demands. We will examine them."
This is crucial, coming as it does on the eve of voting, because Gurung has been going around asking votes in the name of Gorkhaland. Just how e ffective or sincere will a leader from Rajasthan who's in Darjeeling only because an impressionable local outfit assured him a safe seat is anybody’s guess. In election rallies in the hills, Jaswant and Gurung have been shouting from the rooftops that the BJP will support the creation of Gorkhaland if and when it hogs power, a not-too-bright possibility in itself.
There are very few who know that the former external affairs minister took the trek from the deserts of Rajasthan to the hills of Darjeeling because his party could not nail a safe seat for him anywhere else in the country. Though he did campaign for his son Manvendra Singh, who's seeking reelection from Barmer, even getting into a bit of a spot after TV footages showed his distributing money to supporters, it's an open secret that he doesn't top the popularity chart among his own people. He had, after all, lost the 1998 Lok Sabha elections from Chittorgarh by over 25,000 votes.
Jaswant also impressed upon innocent minds that the BJP had been instrumental in the creation of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, thereby implying that it will be in a position to extend the same favour to the Nepalis or Gorkhas as many of them prefer to be called. Of course, no one thought it pertinent to point out all the three states mentioned are much larger, more revenue-worthy and important in the national scheme of things, with 5, 8 and 11 Parliamentary constituencies, than poor, little Darjeeling with one Lok Sabha seat and three Assembly seats. To be brutally honest, the BJP will have very little stake in the uplift of Darjeeling, let alone turning it into a separate state. And history is witness to just how efficient and committed nominees from outside have been in the constituencies they have adopted. Few go native in the real sense. Take former Darjeeling MP and outsider Inderjit Khullar for example.
Apart from the duplicity of the whole thing, there are a couple of other issues that are disturbing in all this. The absence of a truly independent local media hasn’t helped matters. No one gets to know what editors and journalists really feel as they still fear khukri-brandishing goons who threaten and even physically harm mediapersons at the remotest hint of a conflicting point of view, however sane that may be. Not much has changed on this front from the time of Ghising. The other is the crushing crisis of leadership. Many young, smart and dynamic people have left the hills in search of greener pastures, leaving the mountains with leaders who neither have much of an education, exposure to the outside world, nor foresight and a clear stream of thought. It’s like Gurung and his men changing number plates of cars in Darjeeling that have a valid Bengal registration. (Drivers and passengers were given a tough time by the Bengal police the moment they stepped out of the peripheries of Darjeeling.) Unable to convince either Delhi or Kolkata about their genuine demands and grievances they return from frequents trips to the state and national capital only to spread more falsehood and artificial cheer, trapping all into voting for rank outsiders like Jaswant Singh or Khullar, the latter doing precious little for the people who sent him to Parliament with a thumping victory.
Till such time as Darjeeling gets an honest, dedicated, intelligent – and local – leader to talk about the problems heaped upon its unfortunate people, the hills will have to somehow fend off poverty, unemployment, pollution, despair and degradation on its own.

Inside a BJP driven by prejudice: - by Rajinder Puri


Inside a BJP driven by prejudice: - by Rajinder Puri
After six years in office the BJP launched the costliest election campaign in India’s history and was badly trounced. The Congress, which itself had dwindled into irrelevance, succeeded in becoming the single largest party. The fractured election result did not signify a revival of the Congress. It signified the irrelevance of all existing parties. 

The BJP itself lacks ideology, procedure and principle. It has an attitude. It is anti-Muslim and anti-Christian. These prejudices are its driving force. My views are derived from personal interaction with the BJP and its erstwhile avatar, the Jan Sangh. I present, by your leave, a first person account of that interaction, for whatever it is worth.
I was working, in 1970, for The Statesman, and was among the country’s best-paid journalists. My cartoons had been very critical of the Congress and of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In those days of one-party rule all opposition parties stood up for me. Indeed, during those days when Indira was splitting the Congress, opposition party leaders from all the leading parties held a function in Vithalbhai Patel House to air support for me. On behalf of all the leaders present, Atal Behari Vajpayee even garlanded me!
The Jan Sangh (the BJP of those days) decided to start a daily newspaper, Motherland. I was invited to be the editor. Having my own ideas of how to run a newspaper, and believing that in a city largely sympathetic to the Jan Sangh I could effectively challenge Delhi’s premier newspaper, the Hindustan Times, I accepted the offer. I almost halved my own salary and set the same salary ceiling for the top five members of the editorial team. I created a salary structure in which junior staff would have salaries equivalent to the highest paying competitors, the Times of India and The Statesman. The Sangh leaders watched me uneasily but said nothing.
The resident editor of the Indian Express, DR Mankekar, had just retired. I approached him to become Editor of News. Mankekar was very much my senior in years. He appeared to respond favourably. On this matter I consulted KR Malkani, editor of the Jan Sangh’s journal, Organiser. The next thing I knew, I was told by Madhav Rao Mule, number two in the RSS, that Mankekar would be the managing editor. I was told that Hansraj Gupta had a hand in this decision.
Mule, Malkani and I held a meeting to discuss the issue. The only known managing editor till then had been Devdas Gandhi in HT. Devdas was the boss of the show. So I asked Mule, “What does a managing editor do?”
Mule looked uncomfortable. Malkani replied, “Rajinderji, here we function like a family, we work together.”
I bluntly told him: “I don’t think we can function like a family. If we want to become number one in the city we must function like an army. We must have a chain of command. If there is a difference of opinion, who prevails, Mankekar or I?”
Malkani mumbled, “Mankekar.”
“Have you discussed salary with him? How much will you pay him?”
“The same that he gets.” That was around Rs 3,500 per month. I had sacrificed a Rs 4,000 plus salary to voluntarily set for myself a salary of Rs 2,000 per month! I bid Motherland goodbye. I had a letter of appointment from the Motherland Board unambiguously appointing me as number one. “Don’t worry,” I told Malkani. “I won’t sue you for breach of trust.”
Later, Advani and Kedarnath Sahni approached me together and requested me to return. “I thought I was entering a mandir (temple),” I told them wryly. “But I found myself in a mandi (marketplace)!”
Sahni looked at me mournfully. “Puriji,” he said earnestly. “Believe me, we are not a marketplace!” That was the end of the Motherland chapter. The paper never took off. It was closed during the Emergency. After Emergency was lifted it did not revive. I think the Sangh leaders had learnt the hard way that they were out of their depth when it came to daily journalism.
After my brush with Motherland I had returned to The Statesman. Just before Emergency was imposed, I had stopped drawing cartoons for it because its editor, NJ Nanporia, didn’t publish my cartoons critical of Indira. Those days CR Irani had little say in editorial matters. Nevertheless, after Emergency was imposed, a warrant for my arrest was issued. I went underground. When arrest warrants against all journalists were withdrawn upon the advice of Chalapathi Rau, I surfaced to resume my unemployed existence.
After Emergency was lifted, having had close relations with all anti-Indira forces, I found myself in the Janata Party. I was the only non-party general secretary of the party. My appointment had to be approved by all the constituents of the original Janata Party, which did not include Jagjivan Ram at that stage. I was entrusted with looking after the campaign publicity.
After the Janata Party won the election despite initial private pessimism among most of its leaders, especially George Fernandes, aspirants from all factions got together and conspired to throw me out from my post. Explaining to reporters my removal from the post, Advani and Surendra Mohan, who, along with me, were original general secretaries, said that my appointment had been “temporary”. That was not true. The conspiracy had been so complete that I learnt of my removal only from the newspapers the next day! But that is another story.
I grew closer to Charan Singh and Raj Narain because of my previous personal rapport with Ram Manohar Lohia. I wrote columns for Blitz Weekly and the Illustrated Weekly of India. In Blitz I broke the story of the RSS having given a sworn affidavit to the authorities stating it was a political organisation in order to evade a tax of Rs 1 crore. That laid the foundation of the dual membership controversy that provided the excuse for the party to split. Eventually, Raj Narain was unconstitutionally expelled from the national executive for what he allegedly said about Morarji Desai in Shimla. Years later, Shanta Kumar of Himachal Pradesh admitted in a book he wrote that he had falsely implicated Raj Narain at the behest of Nanaji Deshmukh. Anyway, Raj Narain and I formulated the strategy to topple the Desai government, which I had concluded was incorrigible. A fortnight before the Janata government fell, I wrote in my Blitz column precisely how and when it would fall.
In the 1979-80 election I contested against Vajpayee and CM Stephen from the New Delhi constituency. I was then, along with Madhu Limaye and Narendra Singh, general secretary of the Lok Dal. It was a foolhardy enterprise. Charan Singh had announced his intention to apply the Mandal formula in government service. All the central secretariat employees who were voters in my constituency were at my throat. Delhi’s urban voters passionately hated the Chaudhry. Being general secretary of the party and residing in New Delhi, I thought it a matter of honour that I contest from my own turf instead of contesting from Meerut where, with the Chaudhry’s blessings, I might have easily won. Raj Narain allowed me to keep for use in my own election the Rs 50,000 that I had collected for the party. I didn’t receive a single extra rupee from the party. During most of the campaign I had to seek small donations from friends.
I won few votes but they were crucial. In the extremely close contest my votes cut into the Congress tally to allow a victory for Vajpayee. After its defeat, the Janata Party split again into Janata Party and Bharatiya Janata Party. Meanwhile, because Charan Singh and Raj Narain also parted company, I quit the Lok Dal, not joining any faction. It was then that Vajpayee and Advani personally approached me to join the BJP. Advani said: “Let us forget the past. Let there be no reservations on either side.” Okay, I said, and joined the BJP. I asked for no post or status but joined as an ordinary member. It was a foolish decision. As John F Kennedy once said: “If someone deceives you once, it is his fault. If he deceives you twice, it is your fault.” The BJP leaders had already deceived me twice.
In the BJP I quickly became Vajpayee’s presidential speechwriter and unofficial think-tank. At the same time I got together likeminded Delhi leaders, Arif Baig, Mewa Ram Arya and others, to start the Jan Ekta Manch to work among jhuggi settlements where the BJP was particularly weak. We made quick progress. By that time Indira had launched the bank loans scheme for the poor. The party decided to stop the scheme’s misuse in enabling only Congress sympathisers to get bank loans. The Jan Ekta Manch had become strong enough to overshadow the party in organising demonstrations and getting hundreds, sometimes thousands, to court arrest. Vajpayee was delighted. The Delhi leaders were uneasy although the Jan Ekta Manch was located in the premises of the party office and no non-BJP member was made an office-bearer of the Manch.
While Delhi leaders became uneasy at one level, the national leaders became uneasy at another. To give substance to the BJP’s empty slogan of ushering in Gandhian Socialism, I tried giving it content by creating the Workers’ Sector concept. Inspired by Gandhi’s concept of trusteeship I prepared an approach paper outlining the Workers’ Sector concept in which workers would become owners, share in the profits and participate in the management of those companies where public financial institutions held a majority share. The body to propagate this concept was named Ekatrit Kamgar Tabdili Andolan, Ekta. I lobbied hard and created the Ekta committee with Vajpayee, Chandra Shekhar, George Fernandes, Karpoori Thakur, Madhu Dandavate, Devraj Urs, Advani and Bhai Mahavir as members while I was convener.
For the formal approval of the approach paper and its release to the Press, I got all the leaders to Vajpayee’s house. The next day the Indian Express carried a banner headline with a photograph of all the leaders flanking Vajpayee. This created shock waves among the BJP leaders, minus Vajpayee. 
It seemed that opposition unity was being recreated in a new guise. Advani quickly swung into action and derailed the specific significance of the move by summoning the same leaders for routine consideration of electoral reforms and other humdrum subjects. The Workers’ Sector concept died a quiet death.


They come from a different planet
The election results were as bad as they could be. True, the vote percentage declined by just about 2.5 per cent, but the BJP won only two Lok Sabha seats. As I had warned Vajpayee, Scindia, with solid RSS support, defeated him. Despite the crushing defeat, nothing changed in the party’s functioning.
Advani had described the Anandpur Sahib Resolution of the Akalis as a “charter of national disintegration”. Despite that, Rajiv Gandhi described the BJP as an “anti-national party” because it had not distanced itself sufficiently from Prakash Singh Badal. The national executive of the party resolved to have no talks on Punjab with the PM unless he apologised for that remark. A few days after the resolution, Rajiv invited Advani, then secretary-general of the party, for a discussion on Punjab and Advani met him.
I issued a press statement criticising Advani for breaking party discipline by ignoring the national executive resolution. Vajpayee wrote to me saying I should not have gone to the press. I said I would not do that as long as Advani did not flout national executive resolutions.
A short while later Advani flouted another national executive resolution. Ram Jethmalani had argued all day persuading the party to have no truck with the Shiv Sena in Mumbai. But almost immediately after that the Mumbai unit of the BJP, blessed by Advani, teamed up with the Shiv Sena to contest the Mayor’s election.
I again went to the press and criticised the party for flouting discipline. Thereupon, Vajpayee wrote a letter asking me to resign from the national executive for breaching discipline. I replied by resigning from the primary membership of the party. Ironically, later Jethmalani had no compunction in seeking Shiv Sena support for becoming an MP! Vajpayee’s letter and my reply are reproduced without editing. The correspondence is self-explanatory:

Atal Behari Vajpayee
President
Bharatiya Janata Party
May 12, 1985

Dear Shri Puri Ji,

I am sorry to see in this morning’s Statesman a statement of yours criticising the Bombay BJP.
During the last two months this is the third time you have chosen the forum of the press to voice criticism of the party. On March 31, you wrote to me a letter taking exception to the meeting on Punjab, which I, along with Advani Ji, had with the Prime Minister. You certainly had a right to hold that opinion, but as I pointed out to you immediately thereafter, it was improper on part of a member of the National Executive to release such a letter to the press. You had assured me in your letter dated April 2 that you will in the future “take extra care’ about your utterances.
I am sorry to note that you have failed to act up to your utterances. Two days back you have publicly criticised Shri Advani for his meeting with the Prime Minister, And today there is this statement accusing the Bombay BJP of indiscipline.
Obviously, you are unable to abide by the discipline imposed by membership of the National Executive. I feel constrained, therefore, to ask you to resign from the Executive.
With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,
Atal Behari Vajpayee

I sent my reply to Vajpayee the next day:

May 13, 1995

Dear Shri Vajpayee Ji,

Thank you for your letter of May 12th.
I must say that I was surprised by your request that I resign from the National Executive for my “inability to abide by the discipline imposed by its membership”. You deem me undisciplined for informing the press that the General Secretary of the party. Shri Lal Krishna Advani, and the Bombay unit of the party, were undisciplined for brazenly violating the resolutions of the National Executive. You consider me undisciplined for exposing the indiscipline of others, but have no word of reprimand for those who oppose your own formal policy statements as well as resolutions of the National Executive. Discipline, let me remind you, enjoins a code of conduct on all members of the party, including its President and General Secretary.
If I was impelled to take matters to the press it was due to my repeated failure in obtaining redressal for the acts of indiscipline by the General Secretary pointed out by me to you privately. After my letter of April 2nd, you conceded that the General Secretary was wrong in not briefing the press after his meeting with the Prime Minister in order to allay misunderstanding about the party’s attitude on the Punjab issue. In my letter of April 2nd I had urged you to ensure that the party secretariat does not bungle in future and thereby project a false and distorted image of the party’s stand to the public. Orally, you had assured me that such a mistake would not be repeated. Subsequently, you made a formal policy statement in your own name declaring that the BJP would not participate in parleys with either the Government or the Akalis for achieving a solution in Punjab. Yet, twice after that, Shri Advani, in contemptuous disregard of your statement, conferred with the Prime Minister along with other opposition leaders in defiance of your declared policy.
Later, the Bombay unit of the party supported the Shiv Sena candidate for Mayor in total defiance of the central party. Privately you may deplore this fact, but what good is private anguish? The party’s image and credibility are totally tarnished by the wide divergence between its precept and practice, and by your pathetic inability to impose your will.
Upon receiving your letter my instinct was to refuse to resign and demand a full discussion on the matter in the National Executive. But on reflection I have decided otherwise. As per the party constitution all the members of the National Executive are nominated by you. You alone, as President, are elected by the National Council. The National Executive therefore is the reflection of the President’s will. As you know, we do not vote in the National Executive. We decide by consensus. But when even resolutions arrived at after consensus are violated and ignored at will by a handful of senior members of the party, it is clear that it is not even consensus which rules the party. The party is being ruled by a caucus, and you have become its creature. This is not a new development. May I remind you that I had resigned on December 10th 1984, when you had advised me that I was not trusted by the section of the party to which I refer as the caucus? I had of course decided not to make public the resignation in order not to embarrass the party during elections, even though the election results were a foregone conclusion to me. I withdrew the resignation upon receiving your solemn assurance that after the elections the party’s style of functioning would change.
Five months have passed since then, and nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, matters have become worse, with members of the caucus brazenly flouting policy resolutions of the party while you remain a helpless spectator. I can understand a stray violation, but not the kind of arbitrary conduct, involving no accountability, which has become the party’s style of functioning. I enclose my letter of December 10th to refresh your memory. For reasons contained in that letter, and for the added reasons of policy mentioned above, I am left with no choice but to resign from the primary membership of the party.
I resign with regret, and in spite of the warm personal relationship I have with you, Shri Advani, and others in the party. However political association should not be based only on personal relationship but also on fundamental factors like policy and style of functioning. It is my humble submission that you should adopt a similar approach while charting the BJP’s future. Given the political instincts of your most influential colleagues in the party, would it not be better for the BJP to dissolve its identity and merge with the Congress(I)? It would clear much confusion in the country. This is, of course, just a suggestion for your serious consideration.
With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,
Rajinder Puri

Enclosure: Letter of December 10th

It may be seen from the correspondence that the BJP is neither democratic nor disciplined. It seeks blind obedience in the name of discipline. Upon reflection, I am inclined to think the BJP leaders were never really against the goals I had set for the party to achieve. They were deeply disturbed only because I did not, at each step, take permission from some appropriate leader. With their RSS culture, BJP leaders are unused to individual initiative. Individual initiative frightens them. Inevitably, in these circumstances, the question arises: Does the party have a future? I don’t think so ~ unless it changes miraculously. If I am wrong and the party in its present shape and form does have a future, I would then be forced to conclude that India doesn’t.
I sent the correspondence I have reproduced to all members of the national executive. After my resignation party functionaries approached me to rejoin the party. “We will welcome you back with honour,” one of them said. I declined. I continue to have good personal relations with all of them. They are in most cases nice people. It is just that they belong to a different planet. 


The writer is a veteran commentator
and cartoonist