Battle in Bengal: It’s Gorkhas Vs Gorkhas in Darjeeling

Amarsingh Rai TMC Vs Raju Bista BJP in Darjeeling
DARJEELING: In a rare instance in Darjeeling in West Bengal, a Gorkha will be fighting another Gorkha from the only hill constituency in Bengal for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Interestingly, they are from two factions of the same party -- Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) -- that had spearheaded a violent Gorkhaland movement in the eighties.

This time, GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s faction and Gurung’s former general Binay Tamang’s faction will be pitted against each other by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Trinamool Congress. While Bimal Gurung’s faction allied with BJP, Tamang’s faction has joined hand with ruling Trinamool Congress.

Apart from three hill assembly segments -- Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong -- the constituency also includes four assembly segments in the foothills and plains, Matigara-Naxalbari, Siliguri, Phansideoa and Chopra. The constituency is mostly dominated by Gorkhas and other hill tribes who depend on the tea gardens for their livelihood.

Political heavyweights such as Jaswant Singh, former union minister who held portfolios of finance, defence and external affairs on several occasions, had won from Darjeeling in 2009. It was the first time when BJP had won a seat from Bengal, and in 2014, the party fielded SS Ahluwalia, a veteran and a union minister. For BJP, it is a constituency that has given them two consecutive terms.

But this time, BJP has chosen Raju Singh Bista, a young and fresh Gorkha face from Manipur. Bista has been fielded against TMC candidate, Amar Singh Rai, a veteran of GJM, and also the sitting MLA from Darjeeling.

Interestingly, both parties will fight the elections for two different causes which have nothing to do with Gorkhaland, indicating a change in the narrative of hill politics. BJP’s candidate will be campaigning for Gorkha pride and against the domination of Mamata Banerjee, Bengal’s chief minister.

The tone is set by fugitive Morcha chief Gurung through a video message, while the TMC’s candidate, supported by Tamang, will fight for the identity of Gorkha land rights for tribes living in tea gardens and forests, peace and stability in the region, said TMC’s Rai.

Darjeeling is important for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP for its strategic location and its proximity to three international borders, Nepal, Bhutan and China. Moreover, it is also a matter of prestige for the saffron party that won here on two consecutive terms. For Banerjee though, Darjeeling is the last bastion she is yet to win attempts for the past seven years.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com
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In a rare instance in Darjeeling in West Bengal, a Gorkha will be fighting another Gorkha from the only hill constituency in Bengal for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

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