John Barla again rakes up demand for separate North Bengal, despite BJP warning

JALPAIGURI/KOLKATA: BJP MP John Barla Wednesday again raked up a controversial demand seeking a separate union territory comprising North Bengal districts, despite his party cautioning against such statements.

The Alipurduar MP alleged that people who voted for the BJP were being denied ration and 100-days work under the job guarantee scheme.

“In order to escape from such atrocities, I raised the demand for North Bengal to be declared union territory,” he said.

“I will take this matter up with Delhi (leadership),” he told reporters at his Lakshmipara tea garden residence in Jalpaiguri, surrounded by people who claimed they were sheltering there from attacks by Trinamool Congress supporters.

In a jolt to the BJP, the party’s Alipurduar district president, Ganga Prasad Sharma along with seven other local BJP leaders, joined the TMC on Monday.

Barla however claimed that nine members of Kumargram panchayat and a zilla parishad member from Alipurduar district have taken shelter at his residence along with their family members after being pressured to leave the BJP and join TMC.

Denying the allegation, the TMC district leadership said having won the recent assembly elections with a huge majority, it does not require people from BJP to join the ruling party.

Reacting to Barla’s repeated outbursts demanding that North Bengal be declared a separate union territory, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said “everyone has to go by the party line,” while at the same time stating there is space for personal opinions in the party.

“Democracy cannot flourish by gagging people,” he said.

Accusing the BJP of adopting a duplicitous policy, TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh alleged the saffron party is trying to create unrest in the state.

“It is not clear whether the BJP wants these leaders to stop making such statements or continue with their diatribe on dividing West Bengal,” he said.

Days after Barla first made known his demand for a separate North Bengal union territory, BJP’s Bishnupur MP Saumitra Khan stoked a fresh controversy by demanding a separate state by carving out districts of Junglemahal and other areas in South Bengal.

This happened despite the BJP West Bengal unit on Tuesday cautioning party members against violating the party line “Some of our leaders may have made those comments in their own capacity. It has nothing to do with our party line or opinion, which is against any form of division of Bengal, everybody has to toe the party line as a loyal soldier of the party. Violation of party line won’t be tolerated,” the BJP state president has said.