ANI Photo | “People from mountains have never supported Bengal govts”: BJP’s Darjeeling candidate Raju Bista

After polling for three North Bengal seats in the opening phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 19, the BJP’s Darjeeling candidate Raju Bista on Sunday said people settled in the northern reaches of the state never supported the ruling TMC and will do the same in these elections as well.
“Seeing the mood here, it feels like it is almost confirmed that I will be the MP from Darjeeling for the second time. Last time, the margin was four lakh, this time the BJP will win this seat by an even greater margin. This is because people from the mountains had never supported the ruling TMC or the previous governments in the state. The ruling party in the state has always wronged us, while also subjecting us to oppression. We have been giving them a befitting reply to them for the last 15 years and wil do the same this time as well,” Bista told ANI on Sunday.
Darjeeling has been a BJP bastion since 2009. The TMC has never won the constituency.
Reminding the Trinamool Congress of the movement for a separate Gorkhaland state, during which Darjeeling experienced widespread violence in 2017, Bista said the TMC has never posed a challenge to its electoral opponents in North Bengal.
“TMC has never posed a challenge in North Bengal. Gopal Lama is a good person but he has chosen the wrong symbol. This is because Gorkhas cannot stand this symbol. 11 people lost their lives in 2017 owing to this symbol. Bloodstains are on this symbol even today and people can see it. Do you see any TMC flag in their campaign? He is doing politics hiding his party flag,” the BJP MP said.
Expanding on the alleged neglect of the Bengal government towards Darjeeling, Bista said, “Mamata Didi will not get a single seat in North Bengal. This is because she collects more than 20 per cent of revenue from us but sets aside a budgetary allocation of Rs 800 crore of which only Rs 400 crore is spent.”
On Bharatiya Gorkha Parajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) chief Anit Thapa, who has been campaigning for TMC candidate Gopal Lama in Darjeeling, Bista said, “Anit Thapa is a confusion. That is because he is campaigning as a candidate without Gopal Lama. People are confused who to vote for. This is because he is campaigning under a different symbol. They are using TMC’s funds for their campaign. He is trying to strengthen his party.”
Accusing Thapa of indulging in corruption in Darjeeling, Bista said, “There has been massive corruption under Anit Thapa. He has indulged in multiple scams in education, ‘Har Ghar Jal’ scheme, and PM Awas Yojana. He diverted municipality and panchayat funds. After April 25, the CBI will start its investigation.”
“We are facing double corruption, from the TMC and the GTA,” he added.
Speaking about the alleged poor state of the tea gardens in West Bengal, Bista accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of conspiring to shut down tea gardens.
“The situation across our tea gardens is grave. Mamata Didi wants our tea gardens to be shut down so that she sell off the land to mafias, who will construct big buildings here. This is her plan but we will not allow her to succeed in her designs. In 2021, the central government framed a law under which tea garden workers should get a minimum wage of Rs 350 and it also reinforces their right over their land. However, Mamata Didi has not implemented the law here,” the BJP candidate said.
On the work done by the central government in Darjeeling, Bista said, “In Darjeeling, under the leadership of PM Modi, Rs 50,000 crore is being spent on infrastructure development. We have seen noticeable changes here in the last 10 years.”
“During the pandemic, when people were in distress, we got two doses of vaccines. People also received 5 kg of rice free of cost. This will continue for the next five years, till 2029, if we are elected. We have also received Rs 3,500 crore under the Har Ghar Jal scheme. We also received Rs 4000 crore to build a 5000-km stretch under the Gram Sadak Yojana. A new airport is also coming up at Bagdogra at a cost of Rs 3000 crore. Flyovers and highways are also being built to decongest traffic. We have not seen such work in the last 75 years, since Independence,” he added.
On a solution to the Gorkha problem in Darjeeling, the BJP candidate said, “In 2021, Bimal Gurung (founder of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha) sided with the TMC out of compulsion. However, deep down, he was with the BJP. A few days ago, PM Modi said in Siliguri that our government at the Centre has solved many complicated problems. We are also close to arriving at a solution to the Gorkha problem.”
Expanding on his priorities for the constituency if elected again, Bista said, “We have several issues to resolve. One is on reaching a permanent Constitutional solution…some of our Scheduled Tribes who have been left out of the Scheduled Tribes list should be included. Several developmental projects need to be implemented in the next five years.”
“The health facilities in Bengal is very poor. I will focus more on this sector. Secondly, Darjeeling and Kalimpong used to be education hubs in the past. There is a need to open more central institutes here,” he added.
Coming down heavily on the Mamata Banerjee government for the alleged neglect towards tourism in Darjeeling, Bista said there is a need to focus on youth employment in his constituency.
“Thirdly, I will focus on employment for youth because tea gardens are shutting down. There is no tourism activity here. The infrastructure needed to attract tourists is absent. The contribution of the Bengal government to this sector is almost nil. I want to skill our youth and get them employed in the tourism sector, MSMEs and startups,” Bista said.
Also hitting out at TMC for allegedly smuggling drugs through the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, the narrow strip of land in Bengal that connects the Northeast with the rest of the country, Bista said, “There’s been a noticeable rise in criminal and illegal activities in Chicken’s Neck stretch under the TMC. Drugs are making their way into schools, colleges and universities here. Our youth are getting distracted and need to be brought back on track.”
Darjeeling is scheduled to go to polls in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 26

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