Voters brave inclement weather in Darjeeling

April 30th, 2009 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Darjeeling (West Bengal), April 30 (IANS) Around 50 percent polling was reported Thursday in the tourist hub of Darjeeling in northern Bengal amid the hill town’s signature weather complete with fog, wind and occasional showers.
Braving the sudden chill that crept in with the rains after a prolonged spell of sunny weather, voters queued up in front of booths from well before 7 a.m.

The Darjeeling constituency has grabbed headlines after the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is fighting for a separate Gorkhaland state, backed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Jaswant Singh for the seat after the saffron party promised to sympathetically consider its Gorkhaland demand.

Long serpentine queues were seen in most of the booths since morning.

The day had started off with complaints of five EVMs malfunctioning.

At around noon a mentally deranged woman cast her vote at the Sukhiapokhari High School booth at Sukhiapokhari, and then smashed up the EVM.

Nine companies of central police forces were deployed throughout the constituency.

Jaswant Singh, the BJP candidate from Darjeeling, remained indoors at the Hotel New Elgin throughout the day.

However, Bimal Gurung, the GJM chief, was seen queuing up at around 8.30 a.m. to cast his vote at a booth around 6 km from Darjeeling town.

Dressed in a bright red tee-shirt and in equally bright spirits, Gurung stated: “Everything has been peaceful. The most encouraging fact is that people have realised the importance of this vote and come out in large numbers. Many who work outside have returned just to cast their votes.”

Bijendra Pradhan, a travel guide from Darjeeling working in the US, returned home just to vote. “I have never been interested in casting my vote in the past. This time things are different however. It is a question of our identity and our aspiration is in question.”

Equally enthusiastic were the youth. Dhirendra Rai, 23, standing in queue patiently before a booth, said: “Gorkhaland is the solution to all our problems. I have come to vote today for Gorkhaland.”

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