Hills wake up to vote

The Statesman

SILIGURI/DARJEELING/KURSEONG, April 30: Despite a poll boycott call by Gorkha National Liberation Front chief Mr Subash Ghisingh, people turned out to cast their votes in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency today. Even in Mr Ghisingh’s strongholds of Panighat and adjoining areas in the Himalayan foothills, the poll boycott call had little impact.

In limelight due to the candidature of BJP heavyweight Mr Jaswant Singh, the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency today witnessed 79.99 per cent polling in the Hill areas. Polling in the plain areas of the constituency, including Siliguri, too was good enough at 71.06 per cent. The overall polling in the constituency was 74.89 per cent till 5 pm. No poll related violence was reported from any place. Polling in the Darjeeling hills was observed peacefully amidst mild rain in some areas. The Assistant Returning Officer, Kurseong Mr Dibyendu Das said that information of malfunctioning EVMs was reported from some booths in the morning. “Polling personnel solved the problem immediately,” he said.

The Adivasi populace in six polling booths in the Matigara-Naxalbari and the Phasidewa Assembly segment areas adjacent to Siliguri responded to a poll boycott call. Polling in the Hills was peaceful. Of the three Hill Assembly segments, in Kalimpong the polling was 79.27 per cent, Kurseong- 83.4 per cent and Darjeeling – 77.32 per cent. These three Hill Assembly segments account for 5,67,291 votes out of a total of 12,15,473 votes in the entire Lok Sabha constituency. Of the four Assembly segments in the plains, Siliguri recorded the maximum at 75.37 per cent, followed by Chopra – 75 per cent, Phanisdewa- 67.88 per cent and Matigara-Naxalbari – 66 per cent. The total number of voters in the plains is 6,48,182.

GJMM general secretary Mr Roshan Giri claimed that the BJP candidate Mr Jaswant Singh would win by at least 1.25 lakh votes. BJP secretary Mr Biswapriya Roy Choudhury echoed the GJMM leader. “The polling had been very peaceful across the Hills even as the CPI-M tried to create trouble in a few booths at Prahannagar in Siliguri. We are confident of a landslide victory as the people in the Hills have voted their hearts out for the cause of Gorkhaland,” Mr Giri said.

In Kurseong, central forces were not visible in the urban polling booths today. When questioned on the matter Mr Das said that security forces had been deployed according to necessity along with video and digital cameras and 71 micro observers. “Around 51 booths were registered as vulnerable in Kurseong but polling was peaceful,” he added.

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