Darjeeling (West Bengal): As polling got underway in North Bengal on Saturday, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) president Mann Ghising said the people of the Hills want to change the state government and the situation looks like ‘khela shesh’ (game ends).
“It looks like ‘khela shesh’ so far. We are keeping a watch. As far as the Hills and our problems are concerned, we want that this government to be changed. We want the BJP government. We want justice,” Ghising told ANI.
Voting for the fifth phase of West Bengal assembly polls began at 7 am on Saturday amid tight security.
Out of the 45 constituencies, where polling is being held in the fifth phase, 13 constituencies are from North Bengal including five in Darjeeling, one in Kalimpong, and seven in Jalpaiguri.
North Bengal has witnessed a lot of socio-political turbulence like the Gorkhaland movement. A separate state of ‘Gorkhaland’ has been a long-standing demand of Nepali-speaking Gorkhas since 1907 on the grounds that they are culturally and ethnically different from West Bengal.
In the current scenario, GTA is the local autonomous body in the Darjeeling hills, which is headed by the Binoy Tamang-led faction of the GJM that supports the TMC.
Apart from the political disturbance, the adversities of tea garden workers and lack of employment opportunities are the key issues in the region.
The BJP has promised a political solution to the Gorkha issue. It has also promised an increase in daily wages for tea workers to Rs 350.
Caste card is also in the fray as BJP is trying to woo the ethnic and tribal population of the region with the promise of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee-led TMC is counting upon the development and welfare works of her government.
The most dynamic political development in North Bengal this election is switching of camp by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung from BJP to TMC. Gurung, the man who has been spearheading the Gorkha movement, helped the BJP to get a foothold in this region is now with the state’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The most talked-about contests are in three seats — Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Kurseong. Here the two factions of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) one led by Bimal Gurung and the other by his former deputy Binay Tamang are in a direct contest.
In the Darjeeling constituency, Pemba Tshering is the candidate for GJM (Gurung) and Keshav Raj Sharma for GJM (Tamang). BJP has fielded Neeraj Zimba Tamang from the seat. Gautam Raj Rai is the CPI(M) candidate from Darjeeling.
In these three constituencies, TMC has not fielded its candidate as GJM is backing the TMC. The GJM had won these seats in the last two Assembly elections.
In the Siliguri constituency, CPI(M)’s Ashok Bhattacharya is the key contestant against BJP candidate Shankar Ghosh and TMC’s Omprakash Mishra. Bhattacharya, the former Mayor of Siliguri is a prominent communist leader in North Bengal.
BJP has fielded Anandamoy Barman against Congress’ sitting MLA Sankar Malakar and TMC’s Rajan Sundas. Malakar has been representing the Matigara-Naxalbari Assembly constituency since 2011. (ANI)