‘Bongo Vongo’ or the partition of West Bengal, just like Sourav Ganguly joining politics is a recurring topic in Bengal politics, except that the former always invites more serious concerns. As the panchayat elections are around the corner, the buzz of partition has been rekindled again, with strong murmurs of a union territory being carved out of the Northern parts of West Bengal along with some districts of Assam and Bihar.
What added fuel to the fire was the news of several BJP leaders from North Bengal holding meetings at multiple levels on the demand for a separate state. Several other leaders who support the cause of a separate state too have held meetings, with the most important one being between Ananta Rai, leader of the Greater Cooch Behar Movement and Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nisith Pramanik. Later, while speaking to the press, Rai said that the creation of a separate state is only a matter of time.
Uttarbanga Sangbad, a local newspaper from North Bengal ran a front-page bulletin on 2 November outlining the developments for partition.
Where Does BJP Stand?
West Bengal BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya told The Quint that the BJP does not support the division of Bengal.
“We will follow our founder Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee's vision of an undivided Bengal, and we stick to that principle. The BJP does not support division of Bengal in any form.”Shamik Bhattacharya, Bengal BJP Chief Spokesperson
When asked about the activities of BJP leaders in North Bengal, he said that the party will take the issue up internally with the concerned leaders which include BJP’s Alipurduars MP John Barla and MLAs of Matigara-Naxalbari and Dabgram-Phulbari seats, Anandamay Barman and Shikha Chatterjee respectively. BJP MLA from Kurseong Bishnu Prasad Sharma last year had written to BJP national president JP Nadda demanding separation of Darjeeling Hills from West Bengal.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Bengal BJP president Dr. Sukanta Majumdar, who highlighted how North Bengal has always been neglected.
It must be noted here that the justification given by most leaders who support the claim for a separate state, is the underdevelopment and negligence of the northern parts by the West Bengal government.
How Does This Affect the BJP in Bengal?
North Bengal was a strong area for BJP even before they marched into Bengal with all their might – it still is. It took the Trinamool Congress 11 years to gain some ground in North Bengal. It is always South Bengal that the saffron party has struggled with.
While the magnitude of the issue of a separate state cannot yet be ascertained but the news of it has already spread like wildfire across the state, and that might not help the BJP in its mission in Bengal. Local people, especially those from South Bengal, are particularly sensitive about the news of partition and the BJP stands to drive a good chunk of their voter base away if they don’t arrest this speculation soon.
In addition to that, if such a move is being considered, then they need to involve many more stakeholders. The hills and its demand for a ‘permanent political solution’ has always been a serious, sensitive and violent issue for several parties.
The BJP has upped the ante against the Trinamool Congress as the latter finds itself in hot water over several high-profile cases of corruption. Senior BJP leaders like Suvendu Adhikari have been constantly talking about how come September, they will bring the West Bengal government to a point where it can’t function anymore. According to sources, there are even threats to target central funds to the already debt-ridden state. Whether the creation of a separate state is a part of their ‘December Mission’ is not known yet.
This on the other hand will help a wounded Trinamool who has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The party may gain sympathy from those who do not support the division of Bengal. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been vocal against the creation of a separate state.
It must also be noted here that she spoke about resolving the issue in the hills while campaigning for the 2021 Assembly Elections and enjoys a cordial relationship with GTA chairperson Anit Thapa.
The Uttarbanga Parishad report also said that meetings have taken place in the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, the MHA told The Sunday Guardian that reports of such meetings are baseless.
However, this news has led to several parties and organisations, including former Kamatpur Liberation Organisation (KLO) militants and their sympathisers, and other parties like the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh (BGP) to renew their demand for a separate state.
It must be noted here that the KLO has been one of the major proponents of the idea of a separate state and was even responsible for a turbulent and violent period between 1998 to 2004 which saw several youths take up arms for the cause, and several Left leaders getting killed.