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All eyes on GJM+ BJP's SS Ahluwalia and TMC's Bhaichung Bhutia

Darjeeling : The first phase of Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal starts today, when polling in four constituencies in North Bengal will take place. The four constituencies are Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar. As many as 6,033,310 voters in the four seats will decide the political fate of 47 candidates in the fray. Of the four seats, Darjeeling from where the BJP candidate SS Ahluwalia is fighting is most important. Political experts said that the party will have to face a tough fight to retain the seat. The BJP had bagged the only Darjeeling seat from West Bengal in the last Lok Sabha polls. There are 14,22,809 voters in Darjeeling Parliamentary seat. The BJP candidate S S Ahluwalia is getting support from Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) led by Bimal Gurung. 

The Trinamool Congress selected football icon Bhaichung Bhutia to contest from Darjeeling. Previous election trends had shown that candidates who got support either from the GJM or the previous Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) had won the Darjeeling seat. In 2009, too GJM supported senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh who emerged as the winner. GJM, whose support will be a deciding factor in the hills, has decided not to support Bhaichung Bhutia this time. Bimal Gurung had recently claimed that GJM support would be the deciding factor not only in Darjeeling parliamentary seat but also in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal. “We are hundred percent positive that Baichung will win,” Trinamool Congress Minister Gautam Deb said. 

The GJM, which wants a separate Gorkhaland state, has opposed Bhaichung Bhutia’s candidature for Lok Sabha polls from Darjeeling for being an ‘outsider’. The GJM, upset over Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee for not consulting it before fielding the former footballer from Sikkim, has decided to back the BJP’s candidate in the hill station. The Morcha’s motive is clear. It believes the BJP is sympathetic to smaller states and so, if it comes to power, Gorkhaland may actually happen. But the BJP leadership have not yet given a clear stand on the issue of formation of a separate Gorkhaland state. The BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi also did not clearly say anything about Gorkhaland in his recently election meeting in Siliguri. However, political experts are keeping a close watch on Darjeeling seat as the contest between the GJM and state’s ruling party led by the Chief Minister reached high as the seat is a prestigious issue to both Gurunj and Mamata Banerjee.

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