DARJEELING/Jalpaiguri: The decision of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership to part ways with the Trinamool Congress to join hands with the BJP is likely to have a cascading effect on the Nepali speaking population in as many as three Lok Sabha seats – Darjeeling, Alipurduars and Jalpaiguri.
In 2009, BJP’s Jaswant Singh had romped home bagging 51% votes in Darjeeling constituency as the GJM had rolled out a red carpet for him. This may not happen this time with Mahendra P Lama, the Gorkhaland ideologue, and Trinamool’s Baichung Bhutia claiming their share of the vote bank in the three Hill subdivisions – Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. This apart, Baichung has bright prospects in the plains of Siliguri where Trinamool has gained new support base.
But the contest in Darjeeling will cast a shadow in the adjoining Lok Sabha seats of Alipurduars and Jalpaiguri where the alliance candidates (Congress and Trinamool) enjoyed GJM’s support. Trinamool here might be facing a four-pronged contest with Congress, Left Front, the BJP and the GJM throwing its weight behind the BJP. The GJM’s support could be a bonus for the BJP in the Nepali-dominated assembly segments of Alipurduars namely Kalchini, Birpara-Madarihat and Nagrakata. Trinamool candidate Dasarath Tirkey will thus have to bank on “Didi magic” to offset the surge in BJP votes. But even if the GJM goes with the BJP, Tirkey can make up for the apparent loss if the Akhil Bhartiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP) stands solidly by Mamata Banerjee in the elections.
The same logic holds true for the Jalpaiguri seat. In 2011, the alliance candidates in Malbazar and Dabgram-Fulbari assembly seats got the GJM’s support. But that won’t be there this time. With the GJM supporting the BJP, its vote share might go up from mere 9.15% garnered in 2009. Trinamool has to depend on the ABAVP support here as well.
Without this, the contest may turn in favour of the Left Front that polled more than 40% votes in these constituencies despite the erosion in support base. The reason is its support base among the Rajbanshis and Bengali-speaking voters in the plains and a considerable support among tribals working in tea gardens. It goes without saying that the Left Front has suffered erosion in tea gardens and also in the plains. Yet it is still ahead of Trinamool and Congress in these two constituencies. The only change is that the GJM and the ABAVP have emerged as game changers. A change in their support may upset calculations for mainstream parties.
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