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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Mirik swims against voting tide again as United Gorkha Alliance wins panchayat samiti

The Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha stamped its authority in most parts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in the just-concluded panchayat polls but suffered serious setbacks in Mirik subdivision

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 13.07.23, 05:52 AM
Mirik lake

Mirik lake File picture

The beautiful hills of Mirik continue to give nightmares to ruling parties in Darjeeling. The Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) stamped its authority in most parts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in the just-concluded panchayat polls but suffered serious setbacks in Mirik subdivision.

The BGPM lost the Mirik panchayat samiti to the United Gorkha Alliance, an alliance for the rural polls comprising of the BJP, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the Hamro Party, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) and three other regional parties, apart from three of the six gram panchayats.

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Mirik is the only panchayat samiti to have been won by the alliance. There are nine panchayat samitis across Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills. Of the nine, the BGPM has won six while the remaining two Pedong and Gorubathan blocks, which are both in Kalimpong district, have been won by Independents.

Milesh Rai, the president of BGPM in Mirik subdivision, said he would take responsibility for the party’s performance. “Even though my party did well in my own GTA constituency area, we suffered some setbacks in other areas of Mirik. We will analyse our results and work under the directive of the central committee to rectify our loopholes,” said Rai.

Mirik, however, has a history of swimming against the tide and giving nightmares to the hill ruling party of the moment. In 1989, L.B. Rai, the current Trinamul chairman of Mirik municipality, won the polls on a Left Front ticket. This was a time when the Subash Ghisingh-led GNLF was in total control of the hills.

“I, however, was supported by the GNLF to be chairman,” said Rai. Ghisingh hails from Manju village in Mirik subdivision and his party had a strong presence in the region then. During the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council elections in 1999, Opposition candidate B.K. Rai defeated the GNLF in Mirik. He, along with Shanka Mani Rai from Rongo-Jaldhaka constituency, was the only two Opposition candidates to win the 28-seat DGHC in that election.

The gram panchayat and panchayat samiti seats of Jaldhaka were also won by Independents who defeated official BGPM candidates during this rural poll. The hills saw a change of guard with the political baton passing from Ghisingh to Bimal Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in 2008.

However, Gurung too had to taste defeat in Mirik with Trinamul winning six of the nine wards to form the board in the municipality in 2017. It was the first time Trinamul tasted victory in a major hill election. Many also believe that the 2017 Mirik municipality acted as a trigger that ignited the Gorkhaland agitation soon after. In 2017, L.B. Rai took charge as Mirik chairman for the fourth time.

“From Ghisingh to Gurung and now Anit Thapa, all the major hill leaders have tasted defeat in Mirik,” said a teacher from Mirik. Leaders of the alliance, including Edwards, will visit Mirik on Thursday to congratulate winners.

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