Amid talk among people, especially followers of the Binoy Tamang-Anit Thapa faction of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha, that the Hills still lacked “election excitement” like the plains, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today took out its first colourful rally as the party’s ‘parivartan yatra’ reached the Hills of Kalimpong.

Moreover, when a section of political observers here has been calculating the fate of the Trinamul Congress as well as another Morcha leader Bimal Gurung (minus the BJP), after the state decided to withdraw cases against him, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, who led the ‘parivartan yatra’ in Kalimpong today, said “people’s love for the BJP and hate for the TMC was palpable, wherever we are going.”

At a time when a section of the Hill people is keeping a close eye on the BJP’s performance (minus Bimal Gurung) Mr Bista, who is also the party’s national spokesperson, took to social media and said: “The need for change felt by people at the grassroots level is yet to register among those who are working for TMC. There is a silent revolution going on across the Hills, with common people telling me, Raju Ji, rest assured and work, we are TMC only till the verandah, inside the house we are BJP after all.”

Mr Bista used the Nepali language and script to bring home his latter part of the statement. The MP accompanied Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism and Culture, Prahlad Singh Patel, senior leaders from the BJP alliance partners and other senior state and district BJP office bearers and party leaders in starting the ‘yatra’ from Kalimpong’s Mela Ground.

Among those who shared the dais with Mr Patel and Mr Bista were General Secretary of the state BJP Sayantan Basu, Joint General Secretary of the state BJP Kishore Barman, former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh, and Gorkha National Liberation Front president Mann Ghisingh.

“Under a tyrannical government, Kalimpong and Darjeeling Hills have suffered a lot. First TMC tried to divide us along caste-based development boards, then they created friction within the ruling Hill party and now they are desperately trying to divert public anger towards BJP,” Mr Bista said.

“But, our people have already seen through the lies and deceit of TMC and those who are working for them. Wherever I am going today, I see massive outpouring of support from the general public. Even in the smallest of places, our brothers and sisters are coming out in droves to support the BJP call for parivartan in our region and rest of West Bengal,” the MP said, adding, “Today, the people of Kalimpong have sent a strong signal to those sitting blind and deaf to our plight, that our Hills are ready for change.”

Mr Bista highlighted the most basic issues the Hill people had been “denied.” According to him, tea and cinchona garden workers are yet to get the land deeds, while people were still forced to live under the “exploitative” DI Fund Land system. He also said that the Forest Rights Act (2006) that is implemented in the rest of West Bengal, is yet to be implemented in the Hills, while the towns were over-crowded and there was massive traffic congestion everywhere in the Hills.

“Fifthly, people are deprived of basic infrastructure, education and employment opportunities. Sixthly, the towns of Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Mirik, Kurseong and Siliguri are today reeling under acute solid waste management issues. Seventhly, our agriculture sector is suffering due to lack of government support. Eighthly, everyone is aware of the absolute lack of health-care facilities in our hills and there is acute shortage of drinking water, due to lack of proper conservation measures,” he said.

Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a political rally at Dunlop (Sahagunj Maidan) in Hooghly, today said that the central government had allotted Rs 1,700 crore meant for safe drinking water supply for West Bengal people, but that the state government failed to utilise over Rs 1,000 crore.

Addressing the inaugural programme of the Metro Rail and other railway projects there, Mr Modi touched upon the recently-inaugurated railway projects and infrastructure development connecting north Bengal and the Northeast and even Bangladesh from Haldibari in Jalpaiguri.