The Tamang family in Darjeeling is unique, at least politically. While Bharti Tamang, wife of late Madan Tamang heads the Akhil Bhartiya Gorkha League (ABGL), son Sanyog Tamang is with the ruling Trinamool Congress. Madan’s brother, Amar Lama, on the other hand, is backing Kalimpong MLA Dr Harka Bahadur Chettri’s Jan Andolan Party (JAP).
Bharti (69), who stays at Rhododendron — a bungalow surrounded by bushes of bright fuschia azaleas — in the town, is fielding only two candidates, both in Dooars. Her husband, former ABGL chief Madan Tamang was murdered in broad daylight in May 2010 allegedly by workers of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) headed by Bimal Gurung.
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“We are supporting Jan Andolan Party in Kalimpong and therefore, have not fielded candidates from there. We have also decided not to field candidates in Darjeeling and Kurseong,” Bharti said, not giving a reason why.
Her 35-year-old son, Sanyog Tamang, was hopeful of bagging the ruling party ticket for Darjeeling, but was passed over. “In this family, different members belong to different parties. My mother heads ABGL, I am with Trinamool and my uncle is with JAP,” he said.
The first ever party formed to fight for a separate state of Gorkhaland (ABGL was formed in 1943 by Damber Singh Gurung) no longer features on Darjeeling’s political map.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bharti said: “But they all came and sought my blessings… We support everyone except the GJM.”
The family alleged that despite warrants issued on court orders for the 13 named in Madan’s murder, no arrests have yet been made in the case.
In the 2011 Assembly polls, riding on sympathy wave at Madan Tamang’s murder, ABGL had fielded candidates in three main hill constituencies but lost all. “The ABGL could have won then. It needed to strike the iron while it was still hot. But it did not manage to capitalize on the situation. Now, it is no longer politically important,” said a political analyst.
But Sanyog claimed a number of anomalies determined the 2011 results. “We came to know later that there were many polling booths where votes weren’t even counted. We knew we had the support of the people, but in the face of rigging, of course my mother would lose,” he said.
On a rocking chair in Rhododendron’s conservatory, where Madan Tamang would usually sit, a sketched portrait of his is kept. A shelf holds a framed certificate that says he was a member of the National Geographic Society. “Most people knew my husband as a politician. But more than a politician, who would not compromise on Gorkhaland, he was a naturalist,” said Bharti.
The couple would supply and export seeds of rohododendrons and work for hours — with no employed gardener — on the estate plantation. Now, the Tamangs have shut down the seed business. Also, shut is the tea estate they ran in Meghma — while half of the estate fell Indian side, the other fell in Nepal.