The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ghisingh stumps party & Congress

Darjeeling, April 18: The sudden decision of GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh to put up candidates in both Siliguri and Phansidewa constituencies for the May 8 Assembly elections left most, including his own partymen, confused and the Congress fuming.

'I was sounded out suddenly yesterday and I am here to file my papers. His (Ghisingh's) happiness is our happiness,' said Lama, the former vice-chairman of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council and till yesterday a strong contender for the Darjeeling Assembly constituency.

Having been associated with the GNLF for the better part of his 25-year political career, Lama might not be unknown to the strange ways of his leader but the same could not be said of the Congress.

The local party leadership, which had not fielded any candidates from the hill constituencies in the hope that the GNLF would reciprocate by not contesting in the plains, was left searching for answers.

'We will take up the matter with the party high command, and see if they can convince Ghisingh to withdraw his candidates from Siliguri and Phansidewa. Otherwise, we will have to have a rethink and field our candidates from all three hills constituencies,' said Dawa Narbula, Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling.

The Congress had been banking on the GNLF's support to upset the CPM calculations particularly in Siliguri, given that Mirik is an important segment of the constituency.

Besides, the move, maintain analysts, defied logic for the simple reason that Lama would surely have won the Darjeeling seat given the strong GNLF support base.

But not even his strongest supporters would agree that he would surely emerge victorious from Siliguri, a place where the GNLF could hardly be described as unstoppable.

There was also the B.K. Rai factor. It had been expected that Rai, the former GNLF councillor from Mirik, would be nominated from Siliguri. But with Lama filing his papers from the plains, party workers have no inkling of what would happen next.

In the ensuing confusion, the GNLF candidate from Phansidewa, Ishwariadan Doria, could not file his nomination today. He is expected to do so tomorrow.

Another surprising factor was the absence of any official announcement regarding the nomination of candidates from the four Assembly seats of Kalimpong, Kurseong, Phansidewa and Mirik.

This, however, did not stop Shanta Chhetri and Goulan Lepcha from taking out colourful rallies in Kurseong and Kalimpong, respectively, while on their way to file their nomination papers.

Meanwhile, speculation today reached a feverish pitch over who would emerge as the GNLF candidate from Darjeeling constituency.

Asked about the issue, Deepak Gurung, president, GNLF, Darjeeling branch committee, who usually is in the know about all official announcements to be made by the party, claimed 'chairman sahib (Ghisingh) has not said anything yet'.

Observers feel the only explanation to the entire suspense episode could be that the party wanted more time to find the right candidate, especially with the PDF fielding Amar Lama.

Apart from being a prominent lawyer, Lama is a popular figure in Darjeeling and more importantly is largely non-controversial. He has also proved his popularity in the last Darjeeling municipality election by defeating sitting GNLF commissioner from Ward 10.

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