DARJEELING: First electoral mandate for Morcha and more
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 14, 2011
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BY VIVEK CHHETRI
hill mandate but also established that its electoral influence extends even to the foothills ofnorth Bengal.
Even though the hills account for only three of the 294 Assembly seats, the elections this time had evoked special interest as it was for the first time since 2006 that the mandates for the hill parties were tested.
In the last elections in the hills — the 2009 Lok Sabha polls — the Morcha-backed BJP candidate Jaswant Singh won by over 2 lakh votes. But that election did not reflect the strength of any hill party directly, thereby raising questions on the state’s and the Centre’s decision to keep the other hill outfits out of the talks for Gorkhaland.
During the 2009 polls, the GNLF had decided not to contest the elections while the ABGL had left it to the “conscience” of the people to cast their votes. The CPRM, despite being opposed to the Morcha, had extended support to Jaswant’s candidature.
The results of the Assembly polls have also proved that despite GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh’s return to the hills after almost three years and the strong resentment seen after the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang, the Morcha still enjoys an overwhelming support.
The deposits of all other candidates in the three hill seats were forfeited as the three Morcha candidates won by margins largest ever in the Assembly election results of the hills.
The highest margin even during the GNLF heyday had been 40,000 votes. Deposits of candidates are forfeited if they poll less than 1/6th of the total votes cast.
This time, Trilok Dewan, the Morcha candidate from Darjeeling, led GNLF’s Bhim Subba by 1,0,655 votes. Dewan has polled 1,20,532 votes against the GNLF’s 13,977.
In Kalimpong, Harka Bahadur Chhetri of the Morcha polled 1,09,102 while his nearest rival, Prakash Dahal of the GNLF, could manage 7,427 votes.
The situation was slightly better for the GNLF in Kurseong, with Pemu Chhetri polling 21,201 votes but even this could not save her from forfeiting her deposit of Rs 10,000. Rohit Sharma of the Morcha polled 1, 14,297.
Basking in a thumping mandate, Morcha president Bimal Gurung today said: “This is a victory of the people and a mandate for Gorkhaland. The election was just an obstacle for us during our agitation and we decided to face it and the results have been extremely good. We will now go to talks with the new government and depending on their response, we will shape our agitation.”
The Morcha will be organising its victory celebration on May 19 in Darjeeling.
The ABGL, a strong anti-Morcha outfit, turned out to be the biggest loser in the election, with its Darjeeling candidate and party president Bharati Tamang polling 11,198 votes to occupy the third spot.
The ABGL was pushed to the fourth spot in Kurseong by a relatively unknown Bhupendra Lepcha, who contested as an Independent.
In Kalimpong, the ABGL candidate was pushed to the last spot: Tribhuwan Rai could manage to poll only 1852 votes and trailed even behind Bickram Chhetri of the CPI who got 3,105 votes. Bharati Tamang did not even come to the counting centre at the North Point School grounds in Darjeeling.
In the plains, the victory of Wilson Chompromary and the results of the Siliguri, Matigara-Naxalbari and Phansidewa, have shown that the Morcha can be a factor even in the foothills.
“Our candidate in Kalchini has won and this is a blow to those people who told us that we have no support in the Dooars. Our votes were the deciding factors in Siliguri, Phansidewa and Matigara-Naxalbari seats,” said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri.
The Morcha has an estimated support base of around 8,000-10,000 votes in the Siliguri Assembly segment, where the winning margin was 5006. In Phansidewa too, where Sunil Tirkey of the Congress has won, the Gorkha population is around 10,000. The winning margin in this seat was 2,237.
The highest Gorkha population in the plains — around 20,000 — is in the Matigara-Naxalbari segment, where the Congress’s Shankar Malakar has won by 6,833 votes.
Morcha chief Gurung said that while the hill results were expected, the most satisfying aspect of the election was Asok Bhattacharya losing from Siliguri.
“I am very happy that we could play a part in Asok Bhattarcharya’s loss. He was the main person who opposed us and our demand,” said Gurung.
Bhattacharya lost by 5,006 to Trinamul’s Rudranath Bhattacharya, to whom the Morcha had extended support.