Gurung at a press meet at Singamari on Thursday. Picture by Suman Tamang
July 12: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today bagged 28 seats uncontested before the July 29 GTA elections and chief Bimal Gurung thanked the CPM for making this possible by withdrawing its last five candidates today out of fear.
“I would like to thank the CPM leadership for its wise decision,” Gurung said at Singamari after the 28 candidates got their winner’s certificates.
The Morcha is now poised for a straight contest with Trinamul Congress in 16 seats. In one seat, a Morcha rebel is contesting against the hill party.
Gurung seemed upset that Trinamul too had not withdrawn from the fray.
“I have been hurt,” he said. “The GTA was not something we had demanded. It was the Trinamul-led state government and the Centre that asked us to administer the body, a request which we accepted. With the Trinamul deciding to contest the elections, it seems the party wants to run the GTA. The state government has gone against the spirit of the agreement.”
He added: “But, one must understand that there are no permanent friends and enemies in politics.”
Today, the CPM candidates from Rimbick-Lodhama, Relling-Kaijalia, Pul-Bijanbari-Goke, Chongtong-Marybong-Tamsong and Sukhia-Maneybhanjyan constituencies withdrew their names.
In Kurseong, two Independents — I.N. Pradhan from Mahanadi-Tindharia and Nishal Pakhrin from Pankhabari-Ambootia —withdrew their nominations. As a result, the Morcha has won six of the 10 seats uncontested in this subdivision.
In both Darjeeling and Kurseong, the contest will be between the Morcha and the Trinamul candidates.
In Kalimpong, apart from the nine Trinamul candidates, one Morcha rebel, Sanchabir Subba, is in the fray.
The party this evening announced the expulsion of Sanchabir from the party.
The CPM today blamed the Morcha for being forced to withdraw their candidates. “Initially, we had thought of contesting in 23 seats but could not file nominations in 10 because of the Morcha’s resistance and the district administration’s attitude of not wanting to intervene,” Jibesh Sarkar, the acting secretary of the Darjeeling CPM, said.
“Thirteen nominations were filed but our candidates had to face consistent intimidation from Morcha that kept insisting that we withdraw the nominations.”
The CPM leaders had earlier said the decision to contest lay with the candidates.
“The remaining five candidates, who we thought would be able to contest in the polls, were repeatedly threatened and asked with follow their co-workers and abstain from contesting the elections since yesterday. This has prompted us to instruct them to withdraw the nominations today,” Sarkar said.
“This has happened at a time when the chief minister is herself in Darjeeling district and indicates the pathetic role of administration in maintaining peace and democracy. The elections are nothing but a farce process to gift GTA to the Morcha,” he added.
Eight of the CPM candidates withdrew from the race yesterday, allowing the Morcha 22 uncontested seats, just one short of the majority in the GTA Sabha. One Trinamul candidate and a host of dummy Independents also withdrew their names yesterday. One candidate from a small hill party also quit the race.
Before Wednesday, the Morcha was uncontested in 13 seats.
The uncontested Morcha leaders were given winner certificates this evening and Gurung sounded confident that all the 17 Morcha candidates would win the elections by a comfortable margin.
“There could be some semblance of a fight at Panighata (where Trinamul candidate Rajen Mukhia is taking on Morcha’s Champa Biwar) but even there we will win comfortably,” said Gurung.
The party will hold a meeting with the uncontested leaders in Darjeeling tomorrow and assign them duties for canvassing in constituencies which will go to polls.
“The GTA is an outcome of the people’s struggle. We will leave no stone unturned to bring about development in the region. We will co-opt members from the study forum and also other party leaders to address the problems of the general public,” said Gurung.