In a shot in the arm for BJP, two senior leaders of the Asom Gana Parishad today joined the party and the GJM pledged support to BJP candidates in West Bengal, including the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.
Former AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary and senior AGP leader and former minister Hitendra Nath Goswami joined the BJP along with a large number of their supporters here and were welcomed by BJP President Rajnath Singh.
In another development, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) President Bimal Gurung announced that his outfit will extend support to the BJP in West Bengal. He was accompanied by two of the Morcha's general secretaries Raju Pradhan and Vinay Tamang. "The GJM has expressed its desire to support BJP candidates in Bengal for Lok Sabha polls, including Darjeeling seat," BJP national executive member Siddharth Nath Singh, who was present at the meeting, told PTI.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls also, the GJM had supported senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh for the Darjeeling seat, who had emerged as a winner.
Asked about BJP's candidate for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from Darjeeling, Singh said, "It will be decided by the party". GJM's support to BJP comes at a time when ruling Trinamool Congress has nominated footballer Bhaichung Bhutia from the Darjeeling seat. The GJM, whose support is a deciding factor in the hills, has decided not to support Bhaichung. "The real fight in Bengal is between TMC and BJP," Singh said.
Gurung had recently claimed that GJM support would be the deciding factory not only in the Darjeeling parliamentary seat, but also in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Lok Sabha seats.
In Assam, BJP has already declared five of its candidates including three sitting MPs. Sources said Patowary will be contesting from Barpeta constituency.
Patowary, a four-time legislature from Dharmapur and state agriculture minister in the AGP government from 1996 to 2001, quit the AGP on Friday, saying the party leadership was not focusing on the real issues. He was keen that the AGP allies with BJP for Lok Sabha polls and had set a deadline.
AGP, which ruled Assam twice (1985-90; 1996-2001), has not won a single election since 2001. The AGP first came to power in Assam in 1985 after signing the Assam Accord at the culmination of a six-year agitation against illegal migrants from Bangladesh.