Darjeeling vote counting venue Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhawan fortified

With less than 24 hours to go for the results of the 16th Lok Sabha election, the district administration has fortified the Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhawan, the counting venue near Chowrasta in Darjeeling.

Darjeeling  Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhawan fortified
Darjeeling  Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhawan fortified

Counting of votes from the three assembly constituencies of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong will be conducted at the Bhawan, while Siliguri College is the counting venue for votes from Siliguri, Naxalbari-Matigara, Phansidewa and Chopra.

About 400 policemen and two platoons of the central paramilitary force have been deployed at the Darjeeling venue. The strong room already has a three-fold security arrangement in place.

“We have put in place all necessary security arrangements for the counting scheduled for tomorrow as per the guidelines of the Election Commission of India. We want to ensure a peaceful counting process. Further, we have already enforced Section 144 within a 200m radius of the counting venue,” informed Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi.

The district administration held an all-party meeting this afternoon that included counting agents of the parties that contested in the election. The agents were briefed about the rules of the counting process.

Unlike in previous elections, only 38 tables will be set up for the counting process this time. There will be 14 tables for Darjeeling, 11 for Kalimpong and 13 for Kurseong. In the preceding election, there were 56 tables in total for the counting exercise. The new move has forced some parties, who have already acquired permission and identity cards from the administration for appointing counting agents, to cut down on manpower.

Assistant Returning Officer Puspak Roy said, “The counting process will start at eight tomorrow morning. Postal ballots will be counted first after which the EVMs will be opened.”

According to the ARO, government employees and party leaders who are guarded by security personnel or those holding elected posts such as sitting MPs, MLAs or municipality chairman will not be allowed to become counting agents.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is backing SS Ahluwalia, expressed confidence of the BJP candidate emerging victorious.

“The contest was good this time, but we are confident of our party-backed candidate winning and becoming the next MP from Darjeeling,” said GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang although he declined on commenting on the margin of victory.

Darjeeling district committee Trinamool Congress vice-president Gopal Chettri sounded equally confident of party candidate Bhaichung Bhutia winning the race. “We are 100 per cent sure our candidate will emerge victorious tomorrow. The winning margin could be between 30,000 and 40,000 votes,” he claimed.

Independent candidate Mahendra P Lama, who could be the deciding factor between the GJM-BJP and the TMC-GNLF alliance with his own share of votes, did not wish to sound overconfident.

He said, “I am confident of doing well, but let us all wait for the results tomorrow.”

Ahluwalia arrived in Darjeeling on Wednesday while Bhutia and Lama are expected in town Friday just ahead of the announcement of the final results.


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