Darjeeling, March 12: Bhaichung Bhutia today kicked off his election campaign in the hills by offering prayers at the Mahakal temple here and said only some political leaders saw him as an outsider.
“I have been associated with the people of Darjeeling for a long time. There are three players in the United Sikkim Football Club from Darjeeling. One of the coaches is from Kalimpong. We have done social work in the hills and I feel that this issue (of an outsider) is only among the political leaders and not among the people here…. I would love to be the bridge between Sikkim and Darjeeling,” Bhaichung told journalists.
The footballer was alluding to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s barb that he was not a “son of the soil” but was declared the candidate of the Trinamul Congress in Darjeeling.
In the morning, Bhaichung, accompanied by Trinamul leaders, offered prayers at the Mahakal temple. He spent nearly 30 minutes at the temple.
Addressing Trinamul workers, Bhaichung said: “This election for you is the start of a new future. We must work hard to bring back the glory of the place, bring back peace and development.”
Minister Gautam Deb told the workers that Trinamul would lead in the plains by a margin of a lakh votes. “We will lead by 1 lakh votes in the plains and the hills must ensure we have a victor.” He said Mamata Banerjee would come to Gorubathan in Kalimpong to address a public meeting soon. “She might also come to Darjeeling.”
The minister talked about issues specific to the hills to be included in the party’s manifesto.
“We have already requested the Centre to grant Scheduled Tribe status to 10 hill communities. We will also demand a tax holiday for Darjeeling, inclusion of Darjeeling and Cooch Behar in the list of backward region and the establishment of a medical college in Kurseong, Central University in Darjeeling and an engineering college in Kalimpong.”
Deb confident of wresting Darjeeling seat
Bhaichung offers prayers before campaign
Darjeeling, 12 Mar 2014: Kicking-off the Trinamool Congress’ election campaign today in the hills, North Bengal Development Department minister Gautam Deb expressed confidence of winning the Darjeeling parliamentary seat by a margin of more than 1 lakh votes from the plains alone.
Addressing party supporters in Darjeeling, the minister pepped up the atmosphere saying the time has come to prove the TMC is a force to reckon with in the hills.
“We are confident of winning the Darjeeling seat. We have an able candidate in Bhaichung Bhutia and our government is doing a lot for the hills. Now we must strengthen our base and our activists must work overtime to make the party successful in the polls,” said Deb.
He also laid claim to the recent spate of development activities being undertaken in the hills.
“Our chief minister has visited the hills more than 26 times. She has a vision of developing the region. We have already started various projects in the hills,” said Deb.
He cited the recently renovated Rohini road in Kurseong, development boards for the Tamangs and Lepchas, the planned engineering college and central university as some of the initiatives of the state government for the hills.
“The process for making ad-hoc teachers and casual workers permanent has already begun. We are also working to providing more employment and we have started collecting data for the purpose. Besides, we have written to the prime minister to include Darjeeling and Cooch Behar districts under the backward region and tax free zone. We will include this demand in our election manifesto,” informed the minister.
Earlier in the day, Bhaichung Bhutia visited the Mahakal temple in Chowrastha to offer prayers and seek blessings for his poll campaign. However, he refused to take any questions and just said, “I have come here to offer my prayers. What I have prayed for is something personal and cannot be shared.”
But during a press conference later in the afternoon, the TMC candidate said, “For me it is a new life and I want to work in the best manner possible. I believe the MP election is for the future of our children. I will work transparently and honestly, as I have done in the playing field.”
Bhaichung reiterated the need for ushering in mass development in the hills as the region has remained neglected for years.
He said, “Peace reigns in the hills now because of our party. With peace we can bring in development. I am surprised by the overwhelming response people are giving to our party. As an MP from Darjeeling, I want to be the bridge between the hills and the plains going forward.”
I will bring back Darjeeling’s past glory: Bhaichung
KURSEONG, 12 Mar 2014: Trinamool Congress candidate Bhaichung Bhutia today visited Kurseong as part of his campaign for the Lok Sabha election. He interacted with supporters and party representatives while introducing himself as their candidate.
“I will bring back the past glory of the Darjeeling hills through peace and development after being elected MP,” claimed Bhaichung.
He said schools and colleges of Darjeeling are regarded in high esteem across the country and the world, but many reputed teachers from these institutions are leaving for other places. This unfortunate trend should stop immediately so that the glorious past of the educational institutes will return. “Through such initiative and development schemes, Darjeeling will find its past glory again,” stressed Bhaichung.
On the issue of being tagged an outsider, he recalled an incident when he visited Gujarat and was mistaken as singer Prashant Tamang and asked to sing. “It only made me believe that whatever I do or where I am from is pointless as the people of the hills have the same features,” the former Indian football captain said.
On his choice of the TMC, Bhaichung said the ruling front has brought in a new era of development in the hills. “Democracy has been revived here as all political parties have been able to conduct public meetings after the TMC came to power,” he added.
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