Many a muddle in Hill election season

Writes Vivek Chhetri

Darjeeling, April 15: The hills, in every way alive to a multi-pronged election season, is also in the middle of a comedy of confusions.

A contestant from Darjeeling’s oldest party decided at the eleventh hour that fighting an election was not what his family wanted him to do.

His indecisive party chief first pledged support to Trinamul, then retracted.

Trinamul also hit Harka Bahadur Chhetri with a bolt from the blue by making him the ruling party’s official candidate from Kalimpong when the hill leader had planned to contest on his own party’s symbol.

But first about Laxman Pradhan of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), which is the oldest party in the Darjeeling hills.

The ABGL announced Pradhan as its Darjeeling candidate, but on the last day of filing nominations, March 29, Pradhan had a rethink.

When this newspaper called up Pradhan on March 29 to find out about his nomination, he said: “We are trying to find another candidate.”

Pradhan explained: “I am actually not contesting as my family members are against it as I am a diabetic and have high blood pressure.”

The call was made at 10.30am and Pradhan was confident that by 2pm, an alternative candidate would be found.

Well, no one was found. The ABGL does not have a contestant in Darjeeling.

After this, for some inexplicable reason, the ABGL also decided not to contest from the Kurseong seat.

The drama did not end here.

Trinamul candidate Sharda Rai Subba and the entire party district leadership went to Rhododendron Dell, residence of ABGL president Bharati Tamang soon.

The media was called to the Dell and Bharati announced that her party would support Trinamul.

But the next day, the party did a U-turn.

The next day at a media conference at the ABGL office, Bharati said her announcement the day before was her personal thought and the party would only decide on the matter on April 10. Trinamul leaders were speechless on hearing this.

Sources in the ABGL said after announcing to support Trinamul, party leaders realised they had not taken into account that its candidate, Ganesh Lama, was contesting from Nagrakata in the Dooars against Trinamul. A tie-up with Trinamul in the hills would confuse voters.

On April 10, ABGL general secretary Pratap Khati said: “In Darjeeling and Kurseong we urge the people to use their conscience.”

But immediately after, he put out a spoiler alert. “They, however, should vote against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.”

But what would the ABGL do in Kalimpong?

“We are not adverse to supporting the Jan Andolan Party (JAP),” said Khati. This did not clear the confusion completely because the JAP is an ally of Trinamul.

The JAP was hit by a bolt from the blue when its president Harka Bahadur Chhetri, was named the ruling party’s official candidate.

Morcha president Bimal Gurung tried to deride Mamata Banerjee’s move to make Kalimpong a separate district by claiming that the territory of Kalimpong had not been completely incorporated in the Indian union and it continued to be a land leased from Bhutan.

Via Telegraph

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