Days after BJP MP John Barla sought a separate union territory comprising north Bengal districts, his party colleague Saumitra Khan on Monday raised a similar demand for the Junglemahal region of the state and its neighbourhood areas. Khan’s demand, just like Barla’s, was, however, not endorsed by the party’s state leadership, which clearly said that it was not in favour of Bengal’s division.
The Lok Sabha MP from Bishnupur claimed that the Junglemahal area has barely witnessed any development over the years, and demands of locals could be met only after the area is carved out of Bengal and accorded the status of a state. “I think a Junglemahal state, consisting of Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, and parts of Birbhum and two Medinipur districts, along with some other areas, should be carved out to meet the demands of employment and development. John Barla has voiced the grievances of people in north Bengal. I am also doing the same for the people in my area,” Khan said.
He also asserted that there was “nothing secessionist” in his demand. “It will be a part of India, and the region won’t be denied financial package from the Centre for political reasons, as is being done under the TMC regime.
“If the TMC dispensations leeway to Rohingya Muslims, who have settled all over Bengal, isn’t changing the demography of Bengal, the creation of a state, too, won’t…Khan reasoned.
He further said that the TMC dispensation has given key ministerial responsibilities to leaders in the metropolis, while those from Junglemahal and north Bengal faced neglect. “If Prime Minister Narendra Modi is labelled as ‘bohiragato’ (outsider) by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee why shouldn’t she be described as ‘bohiragato’ by the youth of Rarh Bangla (the region comprising Bankura, Purulia)”, Khan, who defected from the TMC to the BJP in 2018, said.
Distancing himself from Khan’s views, BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said the party doesn’t support any demand for Bengal’s bifurcation. “We support holistic and inclusive development, keeping the state’s territorial integrity intact,” Bhattacharya underlined.
Echoing him, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the “party does not endorse Barla and Khans views”. He, nonetheless, added that the TMC’s policy to “turn Bengal into Afghanistan or Syria amid unrelenting attacks on opposition BJP leaders, Dalits and women is forcing party leaders to make such demands out of sheer frustration”.
Strongly reacting to Khan’s comments, TMC spokesman Kunal Ghosh said the BJP, after being rejected by the people of the state, is “raising the bogey of partition but their game plan will be foiled”. TMC MP Sougata Roy, on his part, sought to know why the BJP isn’t expelling Barla and Khan.
“If the BJP does not endorse the statements of its MPs, why is it not expelling them? The party is planning to create unrest in the state,” Ghosh said.