The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has captured the Gorkha Territorial Administrative (GTA) body well ahead of the election scheduled for July 29.
The outfit won 28 of the 45 seats without a fight on Thursday with more contestants pulling out from the fray.
Even as GJM leader Bimal Gurung and his party began preparing for a victory rally in Darjeeling on Friday,the outcome puts a question mark on the restoration of the democratic process in the hills with all political outfits barring GJM and Trinamool Congress withdrawing from the fray. Alliance partners GJM and TMC are engaged in a friendly contest in 17 other seats.
The other hill outfits branded the electoral process a farce,with threats and intimidation allegedly preventing a free and fair poll. The election is now more of a formality than a democratic process for the mandate of the people,said a number of political parties as well as civil society representatives.
Today was the last day for withdrawal of nominations. After the process was over,the GJM was declared to have won 28 seats uncontested. The 17 seats where there will be an election on July 29,includes nine seats in Kalimpong,four seats in Darjeeling and four seats in Kurseong.
The path for the GJM to win the GTA election was laid today after Ashok Bhattacharya,CPM leader in-charge of North Bengal and former minister,in a press conference announced that the CPM was withdrawing all its 13 candidates following continuous threats and intimidation by the GJM.
We never thought of winning seats. But we wanted to participate in the election as it is a democratic process. But we were not even allowed to do that. The GJM people continuously threatened our candidates and forced them to withdraw from the poll. The police and administration were silent spectators as our candidates were intimidated several times near the DM and SDO offices and before the police. No action was taken which made us withdraw all our candidate,said Bhattacharya.
Parties of the hills such as GNLF,CPRM and ABGL boycotted the election earlier,claiming the situation in Darjeeling was not conducive and democratic to hold an election. The Congress,which had a presence in the hills,also boycotted the election claiming lack of democracy in the region.
Secretary,CPRM,Gobind Chettri said,It is a circus in the name of democracy. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should realise the kind of democracy that the people of the hills are living in. People are suffering from fear psychosis. If candidates cannot contest the election because of threats,how can we expect the common people of the hills to reach the polling booths to vote? Today,we faxed a letter to the Prime Minister,union home minister and chief minister about the situation and how the GTA does not serve the interest of the Gorkhas.
B K Pradhan,an advocate and member of Darjeeling Civil Society,a non-political organisation,said,The situation here is self-explanatory. It explains what sort of democracy we are enjoying in the hills where a political party gets absolute majority without contesting the election.
The last election to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) was held in 1999.