Tribal leader John Barla was inducted into the Prime Minister Narendra Modi cabinet on Wednesday as Minister of State for Minority Affairs, strengthening the new team’s idea of ‘Sabka Vikas’.
Barla was elected to the Lok Sabha, from Alipurduar district (West Bengal) in the 2019 general election. Hailing from a tribal family, he began his political career in 2007 as a member of Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP).
According to an article in Hindustan Times, he briefly flirted with the idea of being a part of ‘the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) before dumping them — the tribal leader joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014.’
In 2017, Barla delivered the Alipurduars seat with a margin of 243,000 to BJP, thanks to his massive network of local tribals and labour unions.
Barla has been vocal about tribal education and the plight of tea garden workers in North Bengal. Earlier this year, Barla raked up the demand for a separate identity for North Bengal, which did not go down well with Trinamool Congress. Several FIRs were lodged against Barla following the remark.
PTI reported Barla saying, ” In order to escape from such atrocities, I raised the demand for North Bengal to be declared a union territory,” he said. “I will take this matter up with Delhi (leadership).”