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Darjeeling Hill community boards decide to support Trinamool Congress

Darjeeling : Putting to rest growing speculations about which party they would support in the Assembly election, members of the community development boards recently formed by the state government have been asked to vote for the Trinamool Congress. This would be a big headache for the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha when Darjeeling goes to the polls on April 17. However, with the model code of conduct in force, the chairmen of the Tamang, Sherpa, Bhutia, Mangar, Khambu Rai and Limbu development boards, who are also the presidents of their respective associations, reportedly made this appeal to members today in an indoor meeting in Darjeeling without uttering Trinamool’s name. “We have to feed fodder to the cow that gives us milk,” said Palden D Bhutia, president of the All India Bhutia Association (AIBA). Obviously, he was referring to TMC chief Mamata Banerjee who has formed seven development boards for an equal number of hill communities within a span of two years. “Being the chairman of a development board, I cannot ask the members to vote for the TMC or any other party for that matter. 

However, the members are all educated and know who is helping the community to safeguard its language and culture,” Bhutia added. It is of the general opinion that the members of the seven communities are happy with what the state government, especially the chief minister, has done for them, while they are displeased with the GJM for its apparent indifference to their demands. Even so, members of the Lepcha association, the first community to receive a development board, were conspicuous by their absence in today’s meeting, although representatives of the Indigenous Scheduled Caste Association (ISCA) and the Bhujel (Khawas) Cultural Association, who are also demanding development boards, were present. The Darjeeling district administration has no record of the exact population of the various communities residing in the hills, but according to a census prior to 2011, the six tribal communities - Yolmo, Sherpa, Bhutia, Tamang, Lepcha and Limbu - comprise nearly 32-33 per cent of the hill population. The total population of the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling stands at a little more than 8 lakh, according to the 2011 census. The state government’s dole of development boards seems to have rubbed off positively on the associations, who were all praise for the chief minister. “She has done a lot to uplift our community. 

Earlier, the democratic rights of the communities were kept suppressed by certain political forces. Now we want to help the entity that has helped our community,” said Sanjay Moktan, chief advisor to the Tamang Youth Association and chairman of the Tamang development board. He, however, claimed that the day’s meeting had not been called by the development boards but by the associations. Political observers have said it would be interesting to see the actual number of votes that would be polled for the TMC candidates given the support being pledged by the development boards and the loose conglomeration comprising Harka Bahadur Chhetri’s Jan Andolan Party, the Gorkha National Liberation Front and the All India Gorkha League. 

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