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Hill call for local MP

Siliguri, Dec. 14: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri today said people in the Darjeeling hills did not want an “outsider” to contest the Lok Sabha elections next year.

“We are aware of the aspirations of the people in the hills. We have learnt that they don’t want an outsider for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat. However, there would be a series of discussions before our party decides on the candidate,” Chhetri said on the sidelines of a state conference of the Forest Rangers’ Forum here.

Jaswant Singh, the BJP MP from Darjeeling, was elected in 2009 with Morcha support. At that time, the Morcha wanted a “national” leader to represent the seat.

Today, Chhetri suggested the choice of Jaswant, who is from Rajasthan, was a “mistake”.

“We can commit a mistake. But this time, we have made up our mind that the candidate should be someone from the hills, not any outsider,” Chhetri said, when asked about Jaswant.

Sources said although Jaswant had throughout stood by the Morcha’s demand for Gorkhaland, the party had decided against fielding an “outsider” this time because people in the hills were demanding a candidate who can be accessed easily.

The Morcha spokesperson said the matter could come up during the December 20 meeting between Morcha chief Bimal Gurung and chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Calcutta.

“It would be a one-on-one. It is now difficult to say what exactly would be discussed at the meeting. However, now that Parliament polls are around the corner, the issue (of the candidate) might crop up then,” he said.

Strengthening of the GTA and release of Morcha leaders and workers arrested during the renewed July-September agitation for Gorkhaland were issues expected to be discussed at the meeting, Chhetri added.

Chhetri, also an MLA from Kalimpong, did not clarify if the Morcha would field its own candidate in Darjeeling or support any other party’s nominee from the hills.

A veteran politician from outside the hills is believed to be keen on fielding a relative from the seat.