A number of prominent Trinamul leaders of north Bengal hit the streets with thousands of supporters in Siliguri on Monday, shouting slogans against the demand for statehood. Trinamul’s first centralised rally against the demand in recent times is being seen as an attempt to corner the saffron camp — courtesy the BJP’s internal differences over the issue — ahead of the panchayat elections scheduled for early 2023 and consolidate support among people against any further division of Bengal.
“The BJP is backing the proponents of separate statehood. These people can’t see development in north Bengal and I advise them to use cleansers to clean their eyes. We will stop them at any cost and won’t let the state be divided anymore,” said north Bengal development minister Udayan Guha.
In the afternoon, around 10,000 Trinamul supporters assembled at Mallaguri on the northern part of the city. From there, led by party leaders, they took a rally along Hill Cart Road and walked till Hashmi Chowk, a major crossing in the heart of the city, 4km from Mallaguri. Supporters came from the districts of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.
At Hashmi Chowk, the party organised a public meeting. A dais was readied on the side of Hill Cart Road for leaders to speak. “Time and again, we have reiterated that from Digha to Darjeeling and from Kakdwip to Cooch Behar, Bengal is united. Any attempt to divide it will not be tolerated,” said Siliguri mayor Gautam Deb, who later joined the event. Saayoni Ghosh, state president of Trinamul youth wing, underscored that the BJP was trying to divide the state.
“People have started rejecting them and are questioning their hollow promises. The party (the BJP) will face rejection again in the upcoming elections. People here are with Mamata Banerjee and will never bow to the BJP’s agenda,” said Ghosh.
In the past few months, the issue of statehood has gained ground in north Bengal. In the plains, a number of political parties and organisations renewed their activities in support of the demand. In the hills, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is planning to form a national-level platform for Gorkhaland. Trinamul insiders said that they wanted to mount pressure on the BJP which is beset with conflicting views on the statehood issue.
While a number of BJP MLAs and MPs from north Bengal have been backing the demand for statehood, many state-level leaders, including BJP Bengal president Sukanta Majumdar, have not. “The people of Bengal should understand the BJP doublespeak,” said a senior Trinamul functionary.