Darjeeling, March 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and other political parties based in the hills today walked out of a meeting convened by the Darjeeling subdivisional officer to discuss the preparations for elections to protest the decision to count votes only in Siliguri.
Traditionally, two counting centres are set up for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency, one in the hill town for three Assembly segments in the hills and the other in Siliguri for four Assembly constituencies in the plains.
Puneet Yadav, the district magistrate of Darjeeling, had earlier said the counting centre would not be set up in Darjeeling as St Joseph’s School (North Point) had refused permission to use its playground for the purpose citing a high court order in the institute’s favour. The Darjeeling counting centre was always set up on the North Point ground.
The representatives of the hill parties were officially told about the administration’s decision at the meeting today. Raju Pradhan, the assistant general secretary of the Morcha, said: “All the parties immediately protested the administration’s decision not to set up a counting centre in Darjeeling. Votes have always been counted in Darjeeling. All the parties staged a walkout,” said Pradhan.
The CPRM, GNLF and the ABGL also boycotted the meeting.
The Morcha said it had complained to the Election Commission about the counting at a single centre in Siliguri.
Darjeeling Sadar SDO, S. Mandal, said he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Hill parties flay move to shift vote counting venue
Statesman news service
Darjeeling, 18 March: All regional political parties in the Hills today boycotted a meeting called by the district administration to discuss the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The parties also condemned the administration’s move to shift the venue of the counting of votes from Darjeeling to Siliguri. They said the decision was taken without their consent.
It is learnt that today’s meeting was called by the sub-divisional officer, who is also the assistant returning officer. All the representatives of the regional parties had gathered in the room at the District Magistrate’s office, but they returned without attending the meeting with the SDO.“In the meeting, we had expected to ask the officials why the counting venue was shifted to Siliguri without discussing the matter with the parties here,” Raju Pradhan, who was supposed to represent the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) in the meeting, said.
“Though the returning officer (district magistrate) was not present in the room, according to the assistant returning officer, all the parties had agreed to shift the venue to Siliguri in a 7 March meeting with national and state parties,” he added.
However, according to him, none of the regional parties were aware of such a meeting taking place.
“So we boycotted the meeting. We have also written about this to the Election Commission,” he said.
“Never in the history of Darjeeling had the counting venue been shifted. This move is politically motivated,” leader of the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist (CPRM), Govind Chhetri, said.
Pratap Khati of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League said his party also condemns the move to shift the venue.A senior leader of the CPI-M in the Hills, KB Wattar, said the move to shift the counting venue “definitely rises questions.”
It may be mentioned that the counting of votes for the Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong ares used to take place in Darjeeling, while counting for the Matigara-Naxalbari, Siliguri and Phansidawa areas took place in Siliguri.
The Darjeeling district magistrate, Puneet Yadav, said he was not able to attend the Darjeeling meeting today as he is currently in the Chopra area under the Darjeeling constituency.
“The counting cannot be done in an open field. We need at least 6-7 big halls. In addition, adequate infrastructure is required for the EC to allow the counting to take place, which the other schools or colleges in Darjeeling cannot provide,” Mr Yadav said.
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