The Telegraph
Saturday , May 17 , 2014
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Plains choose BJP over Trinamul
Bhaichung lead outside hills: 651

Darjeeling, May 16: Mamata Banerjee’s effort to divide the hill electorate and consolidate the plains votes in the Darjeeling seat failed to work in favour of Trinamul.

BJP candidate S.S. Ahluwalia’s victory margin of 1,99, 829, a shade below Jaswant Singh’s winning margin of 2,53, 289 vote in 2009, told the story.

Ahluwalia was supported by the strongest party in the hills — the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which backed the BJP as its stated position favours the creation of smaller states.

But the margin does not give the complete picture.

The most striking feature was the impressive performance of the BJP in the Assembly segments of Siliguri, Matigara-Naxalbari and Phansidewa, which are in the plains. The BJP led in all the plains segments, expect in Chopra.

The BJP does not have any organisational strength in the plains and its performance has surprised all political observers.

Siliguri has a significant Hindi-speaking trader population that would have been more inclined to vote for the BJP.

Mamata had made a direct appeal to this section in Hindi when she had campaigned in the town.

Despite that, from the four Assembly segments in the plains, Bhaichung Bhutia, mamata’s choice for the Darjeeling seat, secured a lead of 651 votes.

In the plains, Ahluwalia secured 1,98,847 votes while Bhaichung got 1, 99,498. In 2009, Jaswant Singh had managed only 85,910 votes in the plains, where most voters are against the Morcha’s demand of statehood.

In Siliguri, the BJP secured a lead of 7,526 votes, 9,677 votes in Matigara-Naxalbari and 4,911 votes in Phansidewa.

Only in Chopra, Trinamul got a lead of 22,765 votes giving a total lead of 651 to Trinamul.

“It is clear that the Modi wave worked in the plains,” said a source.

Ahluwalia, who thanked Bimal Gurung for his support, did not fail to mention support from the plains.

“The moment I came to this place, I knew people of this region wanted a change. I am thankful to the people of the plains who gave their blessings to us. Narendra Modi’s historic meeting at Siliguri on April 10 helped us share our thoughts with the people of the plains,” said Ahluwalia.

Trinamul insiders, when asked about the loss, said there were chances that a section of the Congress and Left votes went to the BJP.

“We will surely discuss and analyse what led to such a result. But it seems that because of the popularity of Narendra Modi, several supporters of Congress and Left voted for the BJP,” said a senior Trinamul leader on condition of anonymity.

A section of Trinamul leaders was discussing the fallout.

“Don’t be surprised if heads start to roll for the poor performance in the plains of the Darjeeling seat,” a hill Trinamul leader said.

In the hills, the Trinamul leader tried to seek solace from the fact that the party had manage to get 91,271 votes in its first serious outing.

“Even though the performance of our party is not as expected, even in the hills, given that a section of the Lepcha community, Tamang community and the Gorkha National Liberation Front supported us, we are happy that we could managed more than 90,000 votes,” said a hill Trinamul leader.

Gopal Chhetri, Trinamul town committee’s vice president, said: “We might have lost the battle but we have not yet lost the war in the hills.”

In the hills, the BJP candidate polled 2,89,017 votes, a lead of 1,97,746 over Trinamul.

Given the current political situation in the hills, the BJP’s performance is being considered overwhelming but past figures suggests that the Morcha has been slowly losing ground.

In 2009, Jaswant Singh had polled 4,11,739 votes from the hill segments, while the Morcha candidates had polled 3,43,931 votes from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong in the 2011 Assembly elections.

Bimal Gurung, president of the Morcha, however, sounded optimistic. “The results are very good. We now feel that our agenda will be taken up properly at the Centre as the NDA is forming the government unlike in 2009. I will be visiting Delhi soon to meet senior BJP leaders.”

The biggest loser in the election seems to be Mahendra P. Lama, who managed only 55,744 votes.