The Telegraph
Sunday , March 9 , 2014
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Morcha eyes Cong, BJP

- Gurung to meet national leaders in Delhi on polls

Darjeeling, March 8: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung and three other party leaders today left for Delhi to speak to “national leaders and parties” on the Lok Sabha polls.

Morcha sources said the party, which has declared it will not support the Trinamul candidate in Darjeeling, wanted to speak to BJP and Congress leaders to explore the possibilities of an alliance.

“The Morcha’s support will be the deciding factor not just in Darjeeling but also in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar,” Gurung told reporters in Darjeeling.

He was accompanied by senior leaders Binay Tamang, Anit Thapa and Raju Pradhan.

The sources said Gurung wanted to meet the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, as early as possible.

“However, this does not mean that we are only considering supporting the BJP. Options are open for an alliance with the Congress too,” a Morcha source said.

The Morcha had supported the BJP’s Jaswant Singh for the Darjeeling seat in the 2009 general election.

The BJP has so far announced 34 candidates but is yet to field a nominee in Darjeeling.

A Morcha source said that one of the objectives of the party leaders’ trip to Delhi was to “extract an assurance” on the Gorkhaland demand.

“Whichever party supports the demand should mention it in its election manifesto,” the source said.

The Morcha sources said the party would again request the Congress-led UPA government to set up a committee to look into the Gorkhaland demand on the lines of a similar panel on Bodoland.

Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had told a Morcha delegation in Delhi on March 1 that such a committee could be considered only if Mamata Banerjee agreed to it.

The Morcha source said the party could “go it alone” if “nothing concrete works out at the meetings with the national parties”.

The BJP had won the Darjeeling seat by a margin of over 2.5 lakh votes in 2009.

Political observers in Darjeeling said the contest could be tough for the Morcha this time.

“Votes in the hills could get split. Trinamul is gaining strength in the hills and a section of the party’s leaders in the region do not want to have any understanding with the Morcha,” a source said.

“Unlike the 2009 elections, Trinamul and the Congress do not have an alliance this time. The Left and Trinamul have already announced their candidates for the Darjeeling seat. If the BJP and the Congress also field nominees, it would become a four-way contest,” he said.

The source said Independent candidate Mahendra P. Lama, a former vice-chancellor of Sikkim University, could get the support of a “considerable number of voters”.

The Darjeeling seat consists of the Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong Assembly segments in the hills and the Siliguri, Matigari-Naxalbari, Phansidewa and Chopra Assembly segments in the plains. While the three hill segments have around six lakh voters, the plains have eight lakh.

The dominant party in the hills — the GNLF earlier and the Morcha now — or the one it supports has won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat since the 1980s because the votes in the region don’t get split, unlike in the plains.

“But if the hill votes get split this time, the Morcha could be in trouble,” the source said.