Once an education hub, the tiny town of Binnaguri is now surrounded by dying tea estates. There are a few jobs and fewer options when it comes to politics. The town, which survives almost entirely on the Binnaguri Cantonment is looking for change — a vaccum that BJP is desperate to fill.
The BJP admitted that Binnaguri and the Assembly segment it falls in, Madarihat, has turned into an island in the Doars region for the party. This is the only segment where BJP has a significant presence in an otherwise bipolar election dominated by Left-Congress electoral understanding and the Trinanmool Congress.
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The seat has had an MLA from the Revolutionary Socialist Party since 1969. The key in the sudden rise of BJP, locals claimed, lies in the shift in demographics over the last five years due to increased migration from Nepal and BJP’s alliance with GJM.
Shankar Lama, the owner of a restuarant on the highway connecting Madarihat and Jalpaiguri, said: “Every since Narendra Modi came here and delivered his lecture, BJP has become the favorite. People here are tired of RSP… they have been here for years and what has changed? Nothing.”
“Take this town for instance. It survives only on whatever scraps we get from the Army here. Right now, there are a lot of south Indians in the Cantonment, so I am surviving on vegetarian momos,” he added.
BJP candidate Manoj Tigga said he hopes to get a large portion of the Nepali migrant vote due to the party’s alliance with GJM. The runner up, in the 2011 state polls, Tigga is also confident of the votes that he will recieve from adivasi workers in the tea garden. At a public rally, minutes before campaigning ended at Binnaguri, he said: “I have been here with you for almost a decade. I am not going anywhere. I will work for you and you have the assurance of Narendra Modi that there will be change.”
Sitting MLA Kumari Kujur, who had lost 9 per cent of his vote share to Tigga in 2011, said a BJP victory in Madarihat was unthinkable.
But as Binnagiri goes to vote on Sunday, it remains swathed in saffron. And Tigga waits patiently for the unthinkable to happen.