TMC building foundation in hills with rise in vote percentage
Though TMC has been defeated in all the three seats in Darjeeling but there is impressive rise in the poll percentage. In Kalimpong Assembly seat, TMC got 20.52 per cent votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha election while in 2016 election it has managed to get 41.22 per cent votes. Here, the TMC candidate was Harka Bahadur Chettri. In Darjeeling seat Sarada Rai Subba lost to her GJMM rival. But she got 28.87 per cent votes. The party got 18.50 per cent votes from this seat in 2014 election. Similarly, in Kuersong, TMC got 21.57 per cent votes in 2014 Lok Sabha election whereas in 2016 Assembly polls it received 32.74 per cent votes.
Of the seven Assembly segments which constitute Darjeeling Parliamentary seat, TMC candidate Hamidul Islam was elected from Chapra in South Dinajur. In 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the party’s vote share was 31.66 per cent while in 2016 Assembly polls, the party’s vote percentage went up to 42.13 per cent.
The success of TMC in the hills is a result of Mamata Banerjee’s patience and efforts to restore peace in the area. Just as in Jangalmahal, the phobia that economic activities will be crippled by political movements has been removed from people’s minds because of a series of development schemes taken up by the state government. The leaders of GJMM, Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri have also understood this and both were present at the swearing ceremony of the new government on Red Road on Friday.
In the past five years, Banerjee had visited Darjeeling several times and this has raised the confidence of local people. They have realised that in time of need they will get the chief minister by their side. The economic regeneration has helped people coming from all walks of life. From porters to the hoteliers, from road side tea stall owners to tour operators.
To understand the present scenario it is necessary to understand the political history of the hills in the past three decades. The GNLF movement began in 1986. In 1987, GNLF boycotted the Assembly elections and only 8 per cent votes were cast in the hills. The Gorkha Hill Council accord was signed in 1988. In 1989, the Lok Sabha election was held in November in which GNLF took part and supported the Congress backed Independent candidate Indrajit Khullar. Khullar got 95 per cent votes from three seats situated in the hills and became an MP in VP Singh government.
In 1991, Lok Sabha and Assembly elections were held together. GNLF supported Congress in the Parliament poll and Khullar got around 95 per cent votes from these seats and became an MP in Narsimha Rao government. In Assembly election GNLF fought and bagged three seats in the hills with overwhelming majority. From 1991 till 2011, in all the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections GNLF and later GJMM got 95 per cent votes in these three seats.
But the 2016 election witnessed a new scenario and TMC has been successful in improving its poll percentage in the area which clearly indicates that the party’s base in the area has improved greatly. The alliance is virtually non-existent in these seats. The Opposition leaders who often criticise Banerjee for nurturing a new “constituency of beneficiaries” but at the same time have admitted that her sincerity had paid her dividends in the hills.