A contest of symbols has started in the Darjeeling hills ahead of panchayat elections.
The Hamro Party (HP), which is the largest Opposition force in the hills going by the recent Gorkhaland Territorial Administration election results, filed an objection before the State Election Commission against the ruling Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM).
The BGPM had recently sought a “reserved symbol” for the upcoming rural elections, which will be held in the hills after a gap of 22 years. Unlike in the rest of Bengal where three-tier elections are conducted, only two-tier rural polls will be held in the hills.
“Sir, I would like to bring to your notice that BGPM Party is not eligible for "Reserved Symbol" under the present legal system,” Ajoy Edwards, the president of the HP, stated in a letter sent to the State Election Commission.
The HP has stated that according to the West Bengal Panchayat Election Rules 2006, reserved symbols can only be allocated to “a recognised political party, local political party and any other political party" as specified by the State Election Commission by an order.
Edwards has stated that while a recognised political party means a national party or a state party according to the Panchayat Election Act 2003 (chapter I), the BGPM does not fulfil the criteria to be classified as a local political party.
“According to election rules, a local political party has to be engaged in political activity for a continuous period of preceding five years and at the time of declaration,” said Edward.
The HP has stated that the BGPM helmed by Anit Thapa had been formed on September 9, 2021, and was registered with the Election Commission of India as a registered unrecognised political party on October 7, 2022.
“Hence, the party has been involved in a political activity for little more than a year only,” said Edwards who added that the BGPM did not fulfil the criteria of “other political party” as it had not contested Assembly or Lok Sabha elections until now.
Not only the HP but other Opposition parties also are also likely to raise this issue. “It is largely felt that if the BGPM gets a reserved symbol, it will be a huge disadvantage for the local Opposition parties of the hills,” said an observer.
Senior BGPM leaders refused to comment immediately on the issue.