STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Siliguri, 2 March: The Tamang Youth Association (TYA) today said it will support Trinamul Congress candidates in Darjeeling and Alipurduar in the upcoming elections if the party fields candidates in these Lok Sabha constituencies. TYA made its decision public a day after its representatives met the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and discussed formation of a development body for the Tamang community.
“We met the chief minister at Nabanna yesterday and she told us that the state cabinet has decided to form a development body for the Tamangs. We are very happy and we express our gratitude to the chief minister,” TYA chief advisor Nazoo Glan told a press conference here.
Mr Glan said the TYA will support the Trinamul candidate in the Lok Sabha elections. “Since the state government has accepted our demand, we will extend all our cooperation to the government. We will support the Trinamul candidates in the elections,” Mr Glan said.
According to him, the population of Tamangs in the Darjeeling constituency is more than 3 lakh, while it is around 2 lakh in the Alipurduar constituency. He said the TYA has 1,50,000 members.
“There are around 2,75,000 voters in the Darjeeling constituency and around 1 lakh voters in the Alipurduar constituency,” Mr Glan said.
According to him, the process for the formation of the development body is likely to begin after the Lok Sabha polls. The body will be set up under the tribal affairs department of the state government, he added. “We believe that the development body will play an important role in preserving, protecting and promoting our national heritage,” he said.
Trinamul tilt by Tamangs
– Outfit says it will vote for ruling party in LS poll
VIVEK CHHETRI AND MRINALINI SHARMA
March 2: An association of Tamangs, a community that is the largest in number in the hills, has said it will support a Trinamul candidate for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.
Since the years of Subash Ghisingh’s influence in the hills in the 1980s, no community outfit has been known to separately declare allegiance to any party other than the one dominant in Darjeeling or backed by it.
Also, the Tamang Youth Association has sounded its support for a party that is not from the hills but is trying hard to get a toehold.
Trinamul has not announced any candidate for the Lok Sabha elections. Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy recently said that his party would contest all 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
The Tamang Youth Association, which had organised Mamata’s public meeting in Mirik on January 21, is not the only one or the most influential outfit of the community. So, it cannot be said with certainty that Tamangs, who make up approximately 15 per cent of the hill voter percentage, would vote en block for Trinamul.
The reason for the Tamang Youth Association’s support to Trinamul is chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s promise to create a Tamang Development and Cultural Board.
Nazoo Glan, the chief advisor of the association, said: “We had placed our demand for forming a development body for the Tamang community before the chief minister at Kalimpong in September last year. She has almost fulfilled her commitment by passing a resolution at the state cabinet to form a development board for our community.”
He said as the community was “extremely happy that she has kept her promise to our community and in order to express our gratitude, we will support the Trinamul candidate in Darjeeling Parliament seat in the upcoming elections”.
The Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency comprises seven Assembly segments — Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong in the hills and Matigara-Naxalbari, Siliguri, Phansidewa and Chopra in the plains. The constituency has over 14 lakh voters.
The number of voters from the three hill subdivision adds to around 6 lakh. Traditionally, it has been seen that the candidate who got widespread support in the hills ultimately won the seat. Though the plains have more voters than the hills, the vote there is fragmented.
If the Tamang Youth Association is able to influence even a lakh people to vote Trinamul — it claims a membership of around 1.5 lakh — in the hills and some in the plains, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha would have a contest to deal with.
The Tamang community has around 2.2 lakh people in the hills and another 2 lakh in the Dooars, which makes the community 30 per cent of the over 14 lakh voting population in the seven segments.
The Morcha has been guarded in its reaction to the Tamang association’s decision. Its general secretary Roshan Giri said the party “would wait and watch”.
That the Tamangs have found favour with the Trinamul-led dispensation became clear in one of the steps taken by the state government yesterday.
The government said that the proposed Tamang Development and Cultural board would be asked to look after the interests of nine other hill communities, some of which have sought welfare boards like that of the Tamangs’.
The move has upset the other communities, which perceive the state government’s indifference towards them.
Today, when Mukul Roy was asked about the Tamang association’s support he said he did not know about the matter.
Another senior Trinamul leader, asked about the Tamang board being given the responsibility of the other communities, said: “The Tamang community is leaning towards us. They are happy that a development board has been set up for them. So what is the harm in giving them some more responsibility so they can feel a part of this government?”
However, the Tamangs are not the only hill community that Mamata has wooed. The state government has agreed to recommend to the Centre to give tribal status to 10 hill communities.
A member of a hill community who was present at a Calcutta meeting on Saturday with Mamata, said the chief minister did not seek their support for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections for having recommended their community for ST status.
“No politics was discussed. She only expressed her desire to visit Darjeeling after the Lok Sabha elections,” the representative said.
A source in the hills said: “This time, the hill votes are getting divided and this is definitely a cause of concern for the Morcha.”
Of the over 4.97 lakh votes polled by Morcha backed candidate, Jaswant Singh in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Singh had got 4,11,739 votes in the hills.
“If Trinamul can manage to get around 1 lakh votes from the three hill sub-divisions it can give a good fight to a hill (Morcha) candidate,” said the source.
Mamata Banerjee taking tactical steps with ethnicity in northern West Bengal
SILIGURI: It is Darjeeling hills- at the vortex of turmoil political dynamics. The latest major element in the political game here is formation of a series of development boards, tagged with almost every single ethnic community. No matter how far this can cool down the hills- burning with separate statehood movement, but it can definitely bring in political benefit for West Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress(TMC) and its suprermo Miss Mamata Banerjee even at national level.
First it was Lepcha development board, then another for Tamang. Besides these, other 10 major communities like Gurung, Manger, Rai. Bhujel, Khkas, Jogi etc have been proposed by the state to be included into the list of Schedule Tribes.
As outcome, “We have conferred the title – ‘KINGTSOOM DAARMIT,’ meaning ‘Goddess of Prosperity,’ to Mamata Didi for her initiative to form Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board(MLLDB),” said Mr. L. S. Tamchang, President, Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association(ILTA). ILTA is the umbrella body for around 1.5 lakh Lepcha population in West Bengal out of which, over 80% resides in Darjeeling hills.
Going one step ahead, Najo Glan, chief advisor of Tamang Youth Association has openly declared support of his community in favor of TMC in next parliament election. As estimated, Tamangs constitute near 7% of Darjeeling’s populace.
Though there are questions on the official recognition, status, strength or jurisdiction of these bodies among the political observers and even administrators, majority of the people in these communities, largely at lower level of academic strata, are too happy.
Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM), the de-facto term dictator in Darjeeling hills have always been with a scintillating relationship with state Government. Its separate Gorkhaland statehood movement had always been supported by entire mongoloid populace section comprising all these ethnic communities. The party is not likely to support TMC in the next parliament election.
By playing these development board cards, Mamata is trying to ensure many benefits. “At first, this will split up the support base of GJM making it weaker in its separate statehood movement. This successful political suppression of a separate statehoood movement will brighten her image at national level. Secondly, Darjeeling parliamentary constituency, with around 25% of its electorate role from these communities will become a easy game for TMC. And thirdly, fight against lefts in three other seats in foothills with high concentration of these communities, will become easier for TMC,” said political analysts.
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