Youth calling the shots in West Bengal civic polls

The hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, which have traditionally been a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) stronghold, have not witnessed a local election in the past five years.

Published: 11th May 2017 06:53 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th May 2017 06:55 PM   |  A+A-

Youth conduct canvassing for TMC in the main bazaar of Kalimpong town in West Bengal. (Express photo by Aishik Chanda)

Express News Service

KALIMPONG: As the Jan Andolan Party (JAP) sweeps the local student body elections held recently in Kalimpong colleges, youth are calling the shots in a possible 'paribartan'- winds of change, in the hills of West Bengal.

The hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, which have traditionally been a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) stronghold, have not witnessed a local election in the past five years.

Hence, the municipal elections slated to be held in four municipalities of the two districts on May 14 have become all the more important for GJM to assert its dominance in the hills. 

It is also important for the emerging Trinamool Congress-JAP combine to expand its influence based on anti-incumbency and developmental schemes doled out by Mamata Banerjee in the past six years.

On the other hand, the hills' youth want to see more than just political sloganeering and vendetta politics, which is why their say has become even more important in the municipal polls.

“The youth of Kalimpong are vexed with the stalemate in the Gorkhaland statehood movement. With no support from the BJP government at the Centre, and the continuous extension of a date to achieve statehood with toppings of GJM sloganeering, the youth are restless and want some change towards achieving the ultimate goal of Gorkhaland State. Some say, if not GJM, let’s try JAP. Statehood is more important than any political party,” said Anmol Namdung Rai, a college student and a participant in the agitation.

If political rallies in the town are anything to go by, participation of youth in both TMC and GJM rallies are an indication of the shift in their participation in local hill politics.

“Earlier, the middle-aged and the old led the politics of the hills. But now, more youth are seen both as candidates and as political participants in the municipal elections,” Shweta Chhetri, a GJM activist said.

Political parties have also noted the rise of Gorkha youth in the politics of the hills. Accordingly, schemes such as free WiFi and schemes for betterment of educational and civic infrastructure have been laid out in the manifestoes.

“Youth are really vexed with corruption in the politics of the hills. On Wednesday, Rs 80,000 was found in a van in Kalimpong’s main bazaar, which may have been meant to buy votes or aspiring candidates. We do not want graft to become a norm in the politics of the future Gorkhaland. Hence, we have to take the lead,” said Sophia Basnet, a politically-active college student.

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