John Barla, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Alipurduar, West Bengal, is among the 43 new faces who were added in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s big cabinet reshuffle exercise. He is a tribal leader from the tea gardens of West Bengal.

Barla, born in 1975 in Jalpaiguri, is a politician who has been vocal about the demand for a separate Gorkhaland.

Elected to the Lok Sabha in the 2019 general election, he began his political career in 2007 as a member of Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP).

According to media reports, for a brief time, he leaned toward being a part of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). However, this idea of his never materialised. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014.

In 2017, Barla won the Alipurduars seat with a margin of 243,000 to BJP. This victory came largely due to his network of local tribals and labour unions, news18 reported.

Earlier this year, Barla demanded a separate identity for North Bengal. This was not appreciated by the Trinamool Congress and several FIRs were lodged against him after 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. I will take this matter up with Delhi (leadership).”

He had added: “Post-poll violence is continuing unabated in Bengal. Some local panchayat members have come to me to take shelter, escaping the atrocities of the ruling party. This is the reason why I had demanded a separate state in north Bengal.”

“Those who had voted for the BJP are not receiving 100 days’ work or ration. I will take up this issue with the Governor and will also ask him to come here and look at the condition of the people,” he added.

Following his remarks, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said that his party does not support the idea of division of West Bengal.

Reportedly, after this, his stand on the issue softened.

“This was not raised before the governor. If I have to say anything on this then I will say it before our central party leadership. There are members of a panchayat who have taken shelter in my house escaping TMC atrocities. Today, I addressed this issue before the Governor,” Barla told reporters after his meeting with Dhankhar.