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74% voting in first GTA election
GNLF trauma a mother can’t forget

Darjeeling, July 29: The first Gorkhaland Territorial Administration election today recorded an average 74 per cent turnout in 17 seats of the total 45.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has won the other seats uncontested and the outcome of today’s polls is a foregone conclusion.

Darjeeling district magistrate Saumitra Mohan said voting happened in 292 booths and 74 per cent polling was recorded. “The polling was peaceful and no major complaint was lodged,” Mohan said.

However, almost nowhere did the Trinamul Congress, the only party other than the Morcha that had its symbol in the polls, manage to put a polling agent. Milan Dukpa, the Trinamul candidate of Ghoom-Jorebunglow, said: “I couldn’t post any polling agent in my constituency other than my daughter Milli Dukpa. Morcha supporters threatened her with dire consequences.”

In Pokhriabong-Chamong, Morcha supporters seemed upbeat to ensure the victory of Dipen Mallay, an accused in the Madan Tamang murder case and the candidate from this seat.

Dipen, lodged in the Darjeeling correctional home, was the first candidate Morcha chief Bimal Gurung had named on July 2.

At Mallay’s home, though, his mother Phulmaya did not know her son was fighting the polls from prison. Her other son, Swadhin, has not told her that Dipen is in jail.

Phulmaya, whose home the GNLF allegedly burnt in 1986, never recovered from the shock.

“GNLF cadres had dragged my mother out of our house and razed it to the ground in 1986. She is reticent and we haven’t told her that Dipen is lodged in a correctional home. She may have heard that he is contesting the elections but whenever she asks about her younger son, we tell her that he is out of Darjeeling for some party work,” said Swadhin, Dipen’s elder brother.

Dipen, who is in his mid-30s, was arrested on May 25, 2011, after the CBI took over the probe into the assassination of ABGL chief Madan Tamang.

For more than a year now, the Mallay family has not allowed anyone to utter a word about Dipen to her mother.

Phulmaya, in her late 70s, was not at Swadhin’s rented house at Pokhriabong, 35km from here. “One of our brothers, Sachen, stays in Kalimpong and since Dipen’s name was announced as a candidate from Pokhriabong-Chamong, we have sent our mother there, ” primary school teacher Swadhin said.

Dipen, too, used to stay with Swadhin.

The Mallay family was targeted allegedly by the GNLF after Dipen started raising his voice against the party. “Dipen was keen to be in politics right from his school days and has always stood by the needy. That is why his candidature was immediately accepted by the people,” Swadhin said.

In Darjeeling, Dipen was seen doing puja early this morning at the district hospital where he is admitted with high blood pressure, backache and diabetes.

“I am grateful to our party president Bimal Gurung for giving me such a huge responsibility and am confident that I will win by a thumping margin,” a source quoted Dipen as saying.

D.B. Mukhia, the Trinamul candidate contesting against Dipen, was today seen going to vote accompanied by his security guard. “I did speak to my supporters over the phone but I did not hold any public meetings. In fact, I returned from Siliguri the day before yesterday,” said Mukhia.

He is one of a handful of candidates who kept his election campaign on, though low-key, even after Mamata Banerjee announced that Trinamul would not pose a contest to the Morcha.

Mukhia today alleged that two booths at Turzum in his constituency and at Selimbong Primary School had been captured by the Morcha. “If the elections are conducted in a free and fair manner, I will win,” Mukhia said.