Paying heed to Leader of the Opposition L. K. Advani’s appeal, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on Monday decided to drop its bandh call in the Darjeeling hills.
GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said Mr. Advani and senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley urged a Morcha delegation here that that the 96-hour general strike be called off for a normal situation to prevail before the tripartite talks scheduled for December 21 in Darjeeling.
Later, briefing journalists, Ms. Swaraj said the delegation was told that the bandh, which was to begin on Monday, should be called off in view of the fourth round of talks among the Centre, the West Bengal government and the GJM, which is demanding the creation of a Gorkhaland.
Earlier, in the Lok Sabha, Jaswant Singh, MP from Darjeeling, raised the demand for a separate Gorkhaland, saying the people of the region were already “emotionally separated” from the rest of West Bengal.
Mr. Singh, who was expelled from the BJP in August, also made a plea to the GJM to participate in the talks and call off its strike.
Reaching out to Mr. Advani whom he described as “my former colleague with whom I have had the pleasure of sitting for four decades,” Mr. Singh sought his help in appealing for the withdrawal of the bandh call. He reminded Mr. Advani of the mention of a separate Gorkhaland in the BJP Lok Sabha election manifesto.
Responding, Mr. Advani said that since his name had been mentioned in the context of the manifesto, he would only say that a GJM delegation would meet him later in the day.
Pressing for the creation of Gorkhaland State, Mr. Singh said having small States was not a matter of principle but a necessity for administrative efficiency. “It is not separation. The valiant nationalists [of Gorkha areas] are emotionally separated from the rest of West Bengal. Geographically also they are distant,” Mr. Singh said. What was needed was “not passion, but compassion.”
Left members opposed the demand, with CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta saying they had no objection to issuing the appeal for withdrawing the general strike, but there should be “no indirect encouragement for a separate State.”