Ballot Battle of Ex-Bureaucrats in Darjeeling? Will Go by Jan Bhavna, Says Shringla on Buzz of Being BJP Pick
Ballot Battle of Ex-Bureaucrats in Darjeeling? Will Go by Jan Bhavna, Says Shringla on Buzz of Being BJP Pick
Sources say the BJP may field former foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla as its Darjeeling candidate in Lok Sabha elections, much to the disappointment of a section of party leaders. The TMC-Gorkha Prajatantrik Party alliance, on the other hand, is tipped to be considering former Darjeeling ADM Gopal Lama

Lok Sabha elections in Darjeeling have always been electric, with the BJP parachuting a wild card entry at the last minute. It has been winning the seat for the last 15 years. This year, the hill town may be heading towards an electoral battle between two former bureaucrats.

Sources say the saffron party may field former foreign secretary and coordinator of G20 Presidency Harsh Vardhan Shringla as its candidate. Shringla, who has an ancestral house in the hill town, has been camping in Darjeeling in his personal capacity as the founder of the NGO Darjeeling Welfare Society, fuelling speculation that he is building a base to contest in general elections. In response to a question from New18, Shringla said he would go by the “jan bhavna” (will of the people) of Darjeeling.

According to locals, Shringla is always seen interacting and mingling with residents despite his busy schedule.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had dropped sitting MP SS Ahluwalia as its Darjeeling candidate, option for Raju Bista instead. A local hill leader told News18 that since there has been no substantial movement on the BJP’s promise to offer a permanent solution to disputes, the party may opt for a new candidate again.

According to sources, the prospect has been met with mixed reactions within the party. Speaking to News18, Kalyan Dewan said: “It has come to our notice that an individual, Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, has been travelling in some parts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong District, claiming to be the next BJP candidate for the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. I am at a loss for words as to how he can make such a blatant claim without any approval from the party or party leadership.”

Sources say some leaders have sent a letter to the top brass, opposite a change of candidate.

Speaking to News18, sitting MP Raju Bista said: “Candidature will be declared by the parliamentary committee. They will sit in a meeting and decide. I have high regards for Shringla ji, but this is not parampara (tradition or practice) of the party. Anybody can come and can work for the people.”

BJP MLA Shankar Malakar also batted for Bista. “Raju Bista has been the best MP we have ever seen. We would definitely want him. But whatever the party decides, we will accept that.”

Those close to Shringla, who is said to have some influence in the hills, say he is working in Darjeeling in the service of the local people and not with the Lok Sabha elections in mind.

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung, too, has been travelling to various places in the hills, but sources on ground say his electoral pull at this point is not too strong.

Anit Thapa, chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and the chief of the Gorkha Prajatantrik Party, is in alliance with Mamata Banerjee’s TMC. The alliance did well in panchayat elections, and now all eyes are on its Darjeeling candidate for general elections.

Sources say the ticket may go to former Bengal bureaucrat Gopal Lama, former SDO, Siliguri as well as ADM, Darjeeling. According to some local leaders, since Lama hails from the region, he can give a good fight to the BJP pick.

Speaking to News18, Anit Thapa said: “We are in alliance with the TMC. We will declare (the candidate)… right now we don’t know (about Lama’s nomination).”

Lama, too, played down the speculation. “I have always worked for the people. I don’t know anything about this,” he told News18.

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