Of the three hill seats, the BJP won the Darjeeling and Kurseong Assembly constituencies while the Binay Tamang-Anit Thapa faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha —Trinamul’s ally — won the Kalimpong seat.
Neeraj Zimba, GNLF leader and BJP Darjeeling MLA, retained his seat. The BJP’s B.P. Bajgain won from Kurseong. Ruden Sada Lepcha of the Tamang-Thapa camp of the Morcha, won from Kalimpong.
The rival Morcha faction led by Bimal Gurung, also Trinamul’s ally, drew a blank. Gurung’s candidates were relegated to the third spot in all three hill seats.
But with Trinamul’s hat-trick in Bengal, Zimba admitted his was “a half-hearted win”.
In this show of strength before Trinamul, the Tamang- Thapa camp edged ahead of Gurung by winning the Kalimpong seat and coming second in Darjeeling and Kurseong. All Trinamul candidates in the constituencies of the Dooars and Terai — where Gurung campaigned — also lost to the BJP this time.
The Tamang-Thapa camp polled around 1.55 lakh votes against Bimal Gurung’s 1 lakh-odd votes in the hills.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Tamang-Thapa camp had secured about 20 per cent of the hill votes while the BJP-GNLF-Bimal Gurung camp had polled more than 70 per cent.
Gurung dumped the BJP last October to join hands with Trinamul, even as both Morcha factions continued to be bitter rivals.
However, this time the Tamang-Thapa camp not only increased their vote share but also managed to win a seat on their own strength for the first time.
“We are happy with our results as our main competition is with Gurung’s faction in the hills. We defeated him and his political career is at stake now,” said Thapa.
Much was at stake for the Tamang-Thapa faction. The faction had lost two back-to-back elections in 2019, the Darjeeling Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly bypoll.
Perhaps aware that his political career was at stake, Gurung on Sunday asked his cadre base to go back to the people and revive the organisation.
“We came back after (being on the run) for three-and-half years and we probably could not reach out to all. I appeal to our cadres to reach out to the people. I, too, would be reaching out to the grassroots,” said Gurung after his faction’s defeat. Gurung had dumped his ally, the BJP, last year in October and joined hands with Trinamul to resurface in the hills.
However, members of his faction evinced confidence that the faction would perform well in the local polls.