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Trinamool Congress fields Gorkha leader from Darjeeling for Rajya Sabha polls

Darjeeling has always voted for their own and rejected parties from the plains of West Bengal.

india Updated: May 22, 2017 08:59 IST
Pramod Giri and Saubhadra Chatterji
Pramod Giri and Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
Darjeeling,North Bengal Hills,Gorkhaland
Darjeeling has witnessed frequent shutdowns over the years with the Gorkha National Liberation Front and GJM enforcing shutdowns in support of their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.(HT Photo)

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee nominated a Gorkha leader for ensuing Rajya Saba polls, after her party won a Darjeeling hills civic body for the first time in 32 years.

The West Bengal CM has also re-nominated party’s Rajya Sabha leader Derek o’Brien for another term.

Out of the six Rajya Sabha seats up for grabs, Trinamool is sure to win five. “I will also try for the sixth seat,” Banerjee recently told HT.

She lost the Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong civic bodies to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the BJP. She has chosen to field Shanta Chettri from Kurseong and Darjeeling for the Rajya Sabha polls next month, in what is being seen as a political investment for the future polls.

Chettri was a former MLA of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), the group that originally stoked the fire for a separate Gorkhaland under the leadership of Subhas Ghising. However, she switched over to the TMC  and emerged as its key face in the hills.

Banerjee’s party became the first ruling party of the plains to win an election in the hills that had been a fiefdom of the Gorkha outfits, when it won the Mirik civic body last week.

While the Trinamool announced its nominees, the CPI(M) and the Congress are yet to decide on a pact for the sixth seat which is currently held by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. In case a pact fails to materialise between the two, TMC may win the last seat also.

Chettri’s nomination also comes ahead of the crucial polls for the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the administrative body for the hills.

“People always exploit the Hills... I am happy that I have been able to give back something to the Hills,” Banerjee said.

Critics however pointed out that winning GTA will be an uphill task. She earlier fielded former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia as a Lok Sabha candidate but failed to draw votes.

First Published: May 22, 2017 08:56 IST