The party also declared Amar Singh Rai, GJM MLA from Darjeeling, as its candidate. “GJM leader Amar Singh Rai will contest on TMC ticket from Darjeeling. He will quit GJM and join the TMC to contest the polls. He is the son of the soil and people love him. His wife is Bengali so he has a connection with the plains,” party chief Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday while announcing party candidates for Lok Sabha elections.
Darjeeling and Asansol are two seats that the BJP won in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In Darjeeling, the party had GJM support. However, the GJM was divided into two factions in 2017 during the Gorkhaland agitation in Darjeeling hills. While the Bimal Gurung-led faction of GJM remained with the BJP, the Binay Tamang-led faction of GJM went with the TMC.
Alliance makes it tougher for Cong, Left Front
With TMC joining hands with GJM in Darjeeling hills, it will become difficult for the Congress and the Left front to make any remarkable gains there. As the BJP enjoys the support of one of the factions of GJM, the contest in Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat is mostly between the TMC and the saffron party. For the Congress and Left Front, the only option left is to field an alliance candidate. Both the parties are holding talks on an electoral understanding in West Bengal and are likely to announce their lists of candidates in the next two days.
Recently, Binay Tamang-led faction of the party extended its support to the TMC and vowed to help the Opposition parties to form a new government at the Centre. Sources said this faction enjoys more support from the people of Darjeeling than the other faction and by joining hands with the Binay Tamang group, the TMC “played a master stroke” to wrest Darjeeling seat from the BJP.
“I am very happy that Mamata Banerjee has considered my name from Darjeeling seat,” said Rai, who was once a Bimal Gurung loyalist but switched sides to join the Binay Tamang group, after the former GJM leader went underground.
BJP MP from Darjeeling SS Ahluwalia, however, said the TMC joining hands with GJM “will not make any difference in Darjeeling”. “This is not an alliance. Some people from GJM have joined the TMC. The party will appropriately deal with it. It doesn’t make any difference,” Ahluwalia said.