Dilip Ghosh, however, maintained that his organisation does not support division of Bengal and said views of Barla were his own and the BJP was not in favour of it.
In a major U-turn and diverting from the BJP’s stand, West Bengal party president Dilip Ghosh on Saturday tended towards supporting the demands for separate state in north Bengal and former Maoist-hit Junglemahal.
Defending Alipurduar MP John Barla’s demand for bifurcation of the state, Ghosh said that his demand was legitimate and also alleged that since Independence, people of North Bengal have been neglected.
The saffron party’s state unit president, however, maintained that his organisation does not support division of Bengal. He also asserted that the views of Barla were his own and the BJP was not in favour of it.
Calling the growing chorus for statehood in Bengal as ‘Mamata’s fault’, Ghosh, while addressing mediapersons in Jalpaiguri on Saturday said: “Today if people in Junglemahal and north Bengal want separate states then Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will have to take responsibility for it. They have to give answers why even after 75 years of Independence there has been no development in north Bengal. Why do the people have to go outside Bengal for medical treatment, higher studies and jobs? Why ain’t there enough hospitals, schools, colleges and factories? The situation is same in Junglemahal. Why do women there have to sell sal leaves for two-square meals a day? Why do people from there go to Jharkhand, Odisha and Gujarat for work? Now if people have made such demands (separate states in Jangalmahal and north Bengal) then it is not unjust.”
Ghosh claimed that Barla had voiced local grievances over “lack of development” under the TMC government and should not be called a “separatist” for seeking a separate state of north Bengal.
The senior BJP leader further said that the Mamata Banerjee government had kept the “longstanding demand for ‘Gorkhaland’ in Darjeeling alive and the GTA agreement that favoured the separatists had to be signed accordingly”.
“When the GTA was signed why didn’t you (critics of north Bengal UT demand) protest? Why no one batted an eyelid then? Only when the BJP is around, you make us, the party’s leaders, punching bags. You call our MP a separatist,” he added.
A tripartite agreement was signed in 2011 by the Centre, the West Bengal government and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, paving the way for setting up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), an elected body for the Darjeeling hills.
In June this year, Barla had demanded a separate state or a Union Territory in north Bengal, saying that the region had lacked development over the years. Few days later, BJP MP from Bishnupur Saumitra Khan demanded that Junglemahal should be made a separate state. After facing criticism from the TMC and a section of their party leaders, both leaders had softened their stand in the matter.
Strongly reacting to Ghosh’s latest comment, TMC state general Secretary Kunal Ghosh sought to know why the demand for a separate union territory was not raised during the assembly polls, “if that is what the people of north Bengal apparently wants”.
“Why Dilipbabu or the other leaders of the party, including heavyweights from Delhi, did not speak on the same lines during their campaigns for assembly polls? Why this hypocrisy?
“Had the BJP aired such views back then, voters of West Bengal would have been aware about its stance,” the TMC spokesman added.