The equations of the BJP-GNLF camp still seem unsettled in Darjeeling with supporters of GNLF leader Ajoy Edwards bringing out a rally in town on Saturday, demanding that he file his nomination papers instead.
The development comes despite the GNLF’s senior ally BJP naming sitting MLA Neeraj Zimba as their candidate from Darjeeling.
GNLF president Mann Ghisingh has clarified that the hill party will support BJP candidates in the three hill Assembly seats of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Zimba is a GNLF leader who had contested on the BJP symbol during the 2019 Darjeeling Assembly by-elections and won.
On Saturday Edwards’ supporters gathered at Chowrasta and marched to his residence at the famous Darjeeling eatery Glenary’s, raising anti-Zimba slogans.
Edwards tried to smoothen ruffled feathers.
Neeraj Zimba Telegraph picture
“One need not be an MLA to serve the public. From tomorrow (Sunday) itself I will start my social work,” said Edwards who further explained to his supporters that standing as an Independent would bring about a chasm in GNLF unity.
The rise of Edwards to prominence is being credited to his relentless social work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even though Edwards had hinted that he would not go against the GNLF’s decision to field Zimba, questions are being raised whether Edwards supporters would at all cast their votes in favour of Zimba.
Zimba, who normally does not lose an opportunity to air his views, has been uncharacteristically silent throughout this controversy.
On Saturday, he told The Telegraph that he did not want to “add fuel to the fire” by commenting on the unfolding situation.
Zimba admitted that in “big parties” there would be aspirants but added that he was just adhering to his party’s decision.
“It is not that I got the ticket (it is of the party, the GNLF’s) or I manipulated (to get) the ticket,” Zimba told this correspondent.
Despite the raging controversy within the party, Zimba made it clear that he was in no mood to give up the ticket.
“I would have been happy if anyone (from the party) got the ticket. Now that I have been given the ticket, I can’t go back, I have to fight, I have to take up the challenge,” said Zimba.
The BJP candidate will file his nomination on March 30 and is “100 per cent” sure that Ajoy Edwards would accompany him.
“I am sure Ajoyda will ensure my win. In my win is the win of Ajoy Edwards, and in Ajoy Edwards’ win the party wins,” said Zimba.
In a statement which is seen as an attempt to reach out to Edwards, Zimba said : “Ajoy Edwards will be my coach in the 2021 finals. He will plan the strategy for me. We are together.”
The BJP candidate has been claiming that the 2019 Assembly by-elections was a “semi-final” in hill politics and the upcoming Bengal elections the final match.