Ghising votes after 13 yrs
After boycotting three consecutive Lok Sabha polls, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) chief Subash Ghising on Monday cast his vote.
The GNLF and CPI(M) turned Monday’s elections into an occasion to show their might in their areas of influence. In the hills, GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh led the Congress’ fight to retain the prestigious Darjeeling LS seat. Ending a 13-year hiatus, he cast his vote at the Ramakrishna BT College near his Zakir Hussain Road house around 8. 30 am. The last time he voted in a Lok Sabha election was in 1991.
This not only sent signals to GNLF followers to organise votes for Congress nominee Dawa Narbula but also, in a way, put to rest the controversy that the GNLF had raised questions over Darjeeling’s status in the Indian Union. The GNLF had abstained from the three previous LS polls, asking the Centre to clarify whether Darjeeling belonged to India or Nepal.
As the word spread, GNLF volunteers came out in huge numbers to mobilise voters. Vehicles with green flags were seen plying in all directions. A majority of booths in the Hills had only GNLF polling agents. A Kalimpong-based Marxist leader admitted having failed to send agents to all centres. The Congress’ main ally, the People’s Democratic Front, was also told by the GNLF not to send polling agents to many areas.
By 3 pm, a poll centre near Castleton Tea Estate, on the outskirts of Kurseong town, had recorded over 65 per cent voting. At Sukna, a GNLF-dominated foothill settlement near Siliguri, 105-year-old Jethi Rai was seen going home after exercising her franchise. All this eased pressure on the Congress that has a negligent presence in the Hills. In 1984, Narbula had lost to the CPI(M) by just 1,300 votes because of the presence of SS Ray as a rebel candidate and the GNLF’s boycott call for a separate Gorkhaland.
The picture was quite different in the plains where there is no GNLF and where the Congress cannot match the CPM’s organisational strength, especially in Siliguri and Phansidewa. The Congress complained of harassment by CPI(M) cadres at over a dozen booths in Siliguri town and Matigarha block. However, CPI(M )leaders denied the allegations. Reports reaching here said about six persons were injured in a bomb explosion at Udherar in Chopra.
Despite this, the polls passed off peacefully in Darjeeling. Quoting preliminary reports received from various centres, officials said about 60 per cent votes were cast in the three hill Assembly segments of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. The plains segments of Siliguri, Phansidewa, Islampur and Chopra could record a higher percentage of voting, they added.