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Lama rally surprises in venue & crowd

Darjeeling, April 14: Mahendra P. Lama, the Independent face in the Darjeeling seat race, today attracted a crowd of around 2,000 people at a meeting at the town’s Motor Stand area.

Two aspects of the public meeting stood out. First the considerably big crowd, because Lama did not have the resources to mobilise support. The CPRM, one of the smaller hill parties, has extended support to Lama.

Second, the venue, because other than the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, no other party holds meetings at the Darjeeling Motor Stand, in the heart of the town, as a small crowd in an open space is something a political party would want to avoid.

Perhaps drawing inspiration from the gathering, Lama, who supports Gorkhaland, said: “We have already won the elections. The April 17 voting is just a formality for our supporters now.”

The Motor Stand, which has plains-bound private cars parked in the open area, is cleared of vehicles when a rally is held.

In the hills, Morcha meetings at the Motor stand attract crowds of around 4,000 on average.

Several people Metro spoke to today said they came to the meeting held by Lama, a former professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, on their own, contrary to the practice during election time to bring supporters by the truckloads to the venue.

The Sumero Manch at Chowk Bazar has always been the preferred choice for public meetings in Darjeeling for parties that are not from the hills. The Manch, which is part of a market building, is in the middle of shops and always ensures a decent footfall at meetings.

The Morcha had organised its first meeting at the Motor Stand on October 7, 2007.

The crowd at Lama’s meeting today was slightly less than that at yesterday’s Trinamul meeting at Chowrasta where chief minister Mamata Banerjee was present with actor Mithun Chakraborty and Trinamul Darjeeling candidate Bhaichung Bhutia. According to police sources, around 3,000 people attended the Chowrasta meeting yesterday, and about 2,000 were present at Lama’s meeting today.

Unlike yesterday when a large number of cars were seen ferrying Trinamul supporters from across the hills to Chowrasta to Mamata Banerjee’s meeting, Lama today came to the venue with about 100-odd supporters on foot — an indication that he had not mobilised supporters from outside Darjeeling town to attend his meeting.

The crowd at Lama’s meeting swelled slowly.

The CPM and the Congress held meetings at Sumero Manch on Saturday. The Left meeting was addressed by Sitaram Yechury, the Congress event by state party chief Adhir Chowdhury. The crowd at both meetings didn’t cross 500.

At lama’s meeting today, the crowd had many students, businessmen and professionals.

“He is emerging as a formidable candidate in Darjeeling…. I decided to come to the meeting to hear him. I have never attended his meeting earlier,” said a retired police officer.

Lama is a former vice-chancellor of Sikkim University as well as a former pro-VC of the Indira Gandhi National Open University. He has served as a member of the national security advisory board, a central body, and as the chief economic advisor to the Sikkim government.

Morcha youth rally

The Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha took out a procession from Singamari to Chowrasta in Darjeeling on Monday. Tilak Chhetri, the president of Yuva Morcha’s Darjeeling town committee, addressed the 1000-strong crowd.

As the meeting didn’t have permission, the youth wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha didn’t use public address system.