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17 Feb 2018

Vow to save 'ally' Bimal's life

Ahluwalia (centre) speaks to journalists in Siliguri on Friday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Feb 16, 2018, Siliguri: Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia on Friday said he would put all efforts to "save" Bimal Gurung from being "eliminated extra-judicially" while refusing to recognise Binay Tamang and his followers as the "torch-bearers" of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

The statement by the Union minister of state from the BJP has triggered questions whether he is trying to prop up Bimal Gurung again in the hills at a time his support base faded.

Ahluwalia, who arrived in Siliguri after around eight months on Friday - he will inaugurate a passport office here on Saturday - said: "I am against any repressive measures by the state against the (Gorkhaland) agitators. Bimal Gurung's party is our ally and I had information that some agencies planned to eliminate him in an encounter. Being a democratic person, I feel it is my responsibility to protect any person from being killed without judicial pronouncement. I will not let him die."

The MP said the Binay Tamang-led Morcha was not an ally of the BJP. "He had never said overtly that he is our ally. The Bimal Gurung-led Morcha is our ally till date," said Ahluwalia.

Told about Tamang's comments on Thursday that the MP should quit and might face protests in hills, Ahluwalia said: "If somebody thinks it is because of him that I have won, he is wrong. I have won because of people's support from seven Assembly segments," he said.

The remarks, political observers said, indicate that the BJP continues to back Gurung.

"Gurung's sudden appearance in Delhi and BJP state leaders remarks in his favour were indications that the party was still supporting him, despite the fact that he has lost support base in the hills. The MP's comments have only reconfirmed it. This is also because Binay Tamang is working in close consonance with the state and there are least chances that the BJP can win his support," an observer said.

The MP, however, dodged a direct reply on his withering support in the hills.

"BJP leaders and workers are being attacked at several places across Bengal. I will visit the hills after the budget session to open a passport centre at the Darjeeling post office," said Ahluwalia.

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