GJM faces tough fight from Ghising, Tamang’s wife (Lead)

April 15th, 2011 - 3:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Darjeeling, April 15 (IANS) The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) may have looked invincible in northern West Bengal’s picturesque but volatile Darjeeling hills until last year, but not any more.

The brutal murder of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) chief Madan Tamang in broad daylight, the vote boycott call of the Lepcha community and the return of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) chief Subash Ghising - all promise to make the going tough for the GJM in the assembly polls next week.

A total of 16 candidates are in the fray in the three hill constituencies - Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong - where 571,520 people would be eligible to vote April 18.

The GNLF, which had been leading an often violent agitation for a new state of Gorkhaland since the 1980s, won all the three hill seats - Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong - in the previous assembly election five years ago.

But in early 2008, it was sidelined by the Bimal Gurung-led GJM, which cashed in on the popular discontent over Ghising’s autocratic style of functioning and the goodwill generated by canvassing for Prashant Tamang in the “Indian Idol” television show. These factors helped it emerge as the dominant pro-Gorkhaland force in the hills.

In Darjeeling, the fight will be mainly between Trilok Dewan of GJM and ABGL president Bharati Tamang.

Bharati succeeded her husband Madan Tamang as party chief after the latter was stabbed to death allegedly by GJM supporters in May last year.

An important role here will be played by the 40,000 strong Tamang community whose vote Bharati has been eyeing as she campaigns, banking on the emotions triggered by her husband’s killing.

The vote boycott call of a powerful body of the pro-GJM Lepcha community, which has about one lakh voters in the three constituencies, could also work in Bharati’s favour.

Five small and regional parties, including the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist (CPRM), have decided to support the ABGL in Darjeeling.

The GJM is also drawing good crowds as it canvasses hard to ensure the victory of its first-time contestant Dewan, a former Andhra Pradesh chief secretary. To keep its support base intact, the GJM leaders are saying the outfit will resume the Gorkhaland movement again after the polls.

With Ghising returning to his Darjeeling home a week ago, the morale of GNLF cadres and supporters has also risen. And the party now seems to have thrown a strong challenge to the GJM in Kalimpong and Kurseong constituencies. He had run the hill autonomous body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council for two decades, but was forced to leave the hills in 2008 by the GJM.

In Kurseong, the fight will be mainly between GJM’s Rohit Sharma and the GNLF’s Pemu Chettri.

The GNLF has a strong support belt in the village and tea garden areas of Kurseong. The party has a formidable support among tea garden labourers. It carried out its biggest election campaign in Mirik April 9 with Ghising addressing a huge gathering.

In Kalimpong constituency, the main contenders are GJM press and publicity secretary Harka Bahadur Chetri and Prakash Dahal of the GNLF.

A massive security deployment is on the anvil for the polls, with 658 of the 678 main polling stations declared hyper sensitive. Around 40 companies of paramilitary troopers are set to be deployed in the hills for the polls.

The West Bengal assembly polls from April 18 to May 10 will elect 294 legislators.

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