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The day of the idol...
- Darjeeling’s Tamang is triumphant

New Delhi/Darjeeling Sept. 23: Darjeeling boy Prashant Tamang was declared the new Indian Idol here tonight, sparking dancing on the hill town’s streets.

Bollywood star John Abraham announced the result of the Indian Idol 3 final that had locked the two northeastern contestants’ home turfs in a feverish race to vote by SMS and dial.

Organisers Sony declined to reveal the margin of victory — decided entirely by votes most of which came from the mountainous northeast — but said the number of votes received was 7 crore, a figure higher than the region’s population.

“I thank my mother and my people. I also thank the Calcutta police for granting me permission to participate in the show,” said Tamang, 24, a police constable. He added he would have been equally happy if Shillong-based Amit Paul, his “closest friend”, had won.

The now Guwahati-based Amit, 25, too had said “it’s all the same who wins” but as the result was declared at Delhi’s National Small Industries Corporation exhibition ground, a look of disappointment crossed his face.

A confident Darjeeling, sure of its man’s victory, had begun the party as soon as the voting lines closed at 6pm. A huge crowd thronged Chowrastha, the town’s most famous promenade, while huge processions of motorbikes and cars honked their horns as they snaked across the town. Reports of street celebrations came from Nepal, too.

“Prashant has made us extremely proud,” said Reema Pradhan, a fan who had travelled to the Delhi function from Siliguri. “Nobody would have thought that a guy from a small town would come this far.”

Some Amit fans, however, trooped out without waiting for the programme to end. At Shillong’s public places, people wept inconsolably and groups of youths targeted a few houses. The police assured residents that the situation was under control.

“Don’t cry for me Shillong,” Amit said in a message given to The Telegraph over the phone. “I am coming back to Shillong. I love you all. Let’s accept the verdict.”

At the venue, judges Alisha Chenoy, Udit Narayan, Anu Malik and Javed Akhtar walked up to Amit – whom they had publicly rated the better singer during the contest – and consoled him.

Prashant gets a Rs 1-crore, one-year contract with Sony and will be recording an album with the company but Amit will not be losing out entirely. He is said to have received offers from several film music directors.

Maruti decided to present both finalists with an SX4 car instead of rewarding only the winner as it had announced before.

With the final hosted outside Mumbai for the first time, it was a touch short of glamour. John Abraham, the lone Bollywood star present, joined Prashant and Amit as they performed before a rapturous crowd of 40,000-50,000. Singers Sukhwinder Singh and Mika swayed their hips.

Hips were swinging at the barracks in Calcutta’s Alipore Bodyguard Lines, too. “We contributed from our meagre salary to send text messages. Prashant has made Calcutta police proud,” said constable Chandan Das.

Sikkim, whose people had joined the voting frenzy after chief minister Pawan Chamling issued an appeal in Prashant’s favour, would be celebrating, too. Hundreds had poured in from Nepal to vote and people had sent funds from the US and Europe.

The Shillong Art & Music Lovers’ Forum spearheaded the campaign for Amit, whose family set up 32 landlines at their home where hundreds queued to vote every day.

With inputs from our Shillong correspondent

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