A day after aligning with the BJP for the Lok Sabha polls, the GJM Tuesday dismissed speculation that the candidate for West Bengal’s Darjeeling constituency has been finalised, and said a nominee for raising the Gorkhas’ long-standing demands will be chosen soon.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung, who discussed election strategies with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders including senior leader L.K. Advani, said the candidate for Alipurduar will also be announced shortly.
“I would like to confirm that no names have come up for candidature. There are some rumours going around, but nothing has been finalised.
“We will get a candidate that would raise the long pending demands of the Gorkhas, the Adivasis and the deprived and destitute people of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts,” Gurung said on Facebook.
In a snub to ex-football star Bhaichung Bhutia, who is contesting the polls on a Trinamool Congress ticket from Darjeeling, the GJM Monday entered into an alliance with the BJP, asserting it will support their candidates from Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Lok Sabha seats.
GJM’s support had enabled BJP’s Jaswant Singh to bag the Darjeeling seat in 2009.
“We discussed about the imminent need to consolidate national security in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts as it’s a geo-politically sensitive region. We also stressed the need for safety and security for the Gorkhas living in India,” said Gurung about the meeting with BJP leaders.
BJP national executive member and West Bengal co-observer Siddharth Nath Singh said the candidates for the seats will be finalised and announced jointly by the two parties by March 13.
TMC on strong ground, few talk of BJP or Congress
HOOGHLY: Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama came to Hooghly in 1536. The Dutch came next, followed by the Danish, French, Belgians and Germans. It’s the turn of the BJP candidate Chandan Mitra now and he will have to return just as surely, says the sitting member of Parliament, Trinamool Congress’ Ratna De Nag about the Howrah-born journalistturned-politician.
“All of them had come and gone. So will the BJP. Only two things have stayed: the river Hooghly and the immensely fertile land. Trinamool Congress is a party of the land, its people and of the soil. Everything is in our favour,” says Nag.
Mitra’s Bengali roots notwithstanding, few people in this largely agrarian constituency have heard of the BJP candidate even as they know his party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and believe he has a fair chance of forming the next government.
Nag is well known as a general physician and child specialist, besides being the Lok Sabha member. CPI (M)’s Pradip Saha is a member of the local Krishak Sabha and was a member of the Hooghly zilla Parishad earlier. Abdul Mannan, a sta lwart in Hooghly district Congress and a member of the Al l India Congress Committee, is also a prominent local leader but his party is yet to declare its candidate.
Mitra admits he faces a tough fight. “Hooghly is a difficult seat, but then there is no easy seat for the BJP in Bengal,” he told ET.
The BJP has just one MP from the state – Jaswant Singh, who represents Darjeeling – but this time the party hopes to win more seats riding what it believes is a Modi wave.
However, here the contest is likely to be mainly between TMC and the CPM. Mamata Banerjee-led TMC commands six of the seven assembly segments. It won 45 of the 50 seats in the Hooghly zilla parishad, 158 gram panchayats and a few panchayat samitis. In the 2013 panchyat polls, TMC had won 38% of gram panchayats and 35% of panchayat samitis uncontested.
The CPM has been reduced to a pale shadow of its glory days. It has a sizeable following in just one assembly segment of Pandua, five zilla parishad seats and 35 gram panchayats besides a few panchayat samitis.
While the Congress has a few gram panchayats and panchayat samitis, the BJP has negligible presence in the constituency.
BJP’s state president Rahul Sinha, however, claimed, “It will not be very easy for TMC this time.” TMC’s opponents are hoping to get some traction by raising the Singur issue all over again.
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