Friday, Jun 14, 2024 09:30 [IST]

Last Update: Friday, Jun 14, 2024 04:42 [IST]

Darjeeling Has Spoken In Conflicting Sentences


The beautiful hills, forests, ravines and rivers of North Bengal have developed into a happy hunting ground for tourists from across the globe. Tourism has rapidly changed the economy and way of life of this area in drastic ways.

Politically too, this area, has for the past decade, become a happy hunting ground for the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) which now considers this region as its own back yard. Having won seven of the eight North Bengal in 2019 and six of the eight this time, North Bengal is that fortress atop which BJP stand while dreaming of conquering the rest of Bengal.

Sadly for the BJP what they thought would be their Battle Plassey, wherefrom they would finally conquer Bengal, not only turned out to be a damp squib but also a slap in the face of their leadership which was predicting 27 to 28 seats for the saffron party in West Bengal. Of the 12 that it finally won, six of course came from North Bengal. While the BJP’s disappointment in Bengal would have been an interesting topic to discuss, it falls beyond the scope of this article and I will let it rest till another rainy day.

Darjeeling seat was one such seat which the BJP has been dominating for the last three General elections and this time round was no exception. From Jashwant Singh to SS Aluwalia to Raju Bista, the Darjeeling seat seems to have become a safe seat for the BJP over the years. Raju Bista the sitting MP, won the Darjeeling seat for a second time though with a much reduced margin.

There of course was no doubt that Mr. Bista would regain his seat once his name was declared. Riding on the back of several developmental projects that he brought into Siliguri, like the Balasan-Sevoke highway and the Bagdogra International Airport project, it was definite that the Siliguri voters would once again prefer Mr. Bista over Mr. Gopal Lama, the TMC candidate. Mr. Bista of course did not have too much to show to the Darjeeling Hill population by way of any development projects but then the Hills anyway vote on sentiments not development. Even on the subject of sentiments, there was a growing dissent against the BJP in the Hills for the Hill voters felt that it had been taken for a ride more times than they could digest. The BJP despite exploiting the emotive issue of a separate statehood and tribal status for the remaining eleven communities has nothing to show on this account and this is what was in some ways responsible for its reduced vote share in the Hills.

Mr. Bista polled 6,79,331 votes this time which was about 70,000 votes less than in the last elections. This figure shows that the BJP lost almost 9% votes to what it polled in 2019. In 2109, BJP polled 59.2% of the total votes cast whereas this year the percentage of the total votes it received was about 51%. TMC candidate, Mr. Gopal Lama on the contrary received 5,00,806 votes which was a huge rise from the 3,36,624 votes that the TMC received in the 2019 elections. With approximately 1,64,000 more votes this time, the TMC can take some solace in this year’s performance despite losing the electoral battle.

If this increase in TMC votes is to be analyzed, it clearly shows that it gained both in the Hills and in the Plains. It gained approximately 1,02,000 votes in the plains (Siliguri, Matigara, Phansidewa and Chopra) while in the Hills(Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Kurseong) it gained about 62,000 votes. On a percentage basis, in 2024, TMC has gained almost 60% votes in the Hills over what it received in 2019. In 2019 it had received a meagre 1,03,500 votes in the Hills while this time round they have received 1,65,494. Percentage wise the TMC had received just 26.56% votes in the Darjeeling seat in 2019 while getting 38.5% votes this time, which is a substantial increase of over 12%.

Analyzing the BJP vote share in the Hill it shows that in 2019, the BJP received 3,44,100 votes from the Hills while managing to get only 2,58,978 votes this time. This shows a significant drop of over 85,000 votes. This means that the BJP has lost almost 25% votes this time in the Hills in comparison to the last elections. The BJP leadership in the Hills must take note of this huge drop in vote share and try and analyze the cause of this vote loss. Of course the Anit Thapa led BGPM is now a stronger force in the Hills than what it was earlier with it stranglehold over the GTA and Panchayat bodies in the Hills but the loss of BJP votes has more to do with just this. The fact that the overall image of the BJP across the country has taken a beaten along-with bread and butter issues of the public, also has contributed to the BJP vote loss in the Hills. Another factor which went against the BJP in the Hills this time, to a smaller extent, is the fact that a section of the public perceived Mr. Bista as someone who is arrogant, intolerant of opposition voices and surrounded by a set of coteries who guarded access to him.

With the BJP now no longer in absolute control of things at the Central level, having to share power with conservative politicians like Chandra Babu Naidu and Nitish Kumar, the Hills can forget its dreams of a separate state or even ST status for the eleven communities, in the near future. There is no way that the BJP will rock the already fragile boat that it will have to sail for the coming few years hence the Hills despite its continued support for the saffron party can forget for the moment any favours from them.

Another aspect that needs to be a part of this article is the better than expected performance of the Congress/CPM candidate this time. Polling 83,374 votes, Munish Tamang the Congress candidate did himself proud especially for the fact that he was brought into the election fray at the very last moment with almost no time to prepare. Many in the Hills considered him to be the best of all the candidates in the election line up but the Congress has practically no grass-root infrastructure in the area, hence he always was just a marginal player in these elections. There is little doubt though that someone of his calibre, representing the Hills in the Parliament would have been a big plus for the entire Darjeeling region.

The BJP will have to do some serious thinking if it wants to remain relevant in the Hills in coming years. What it has to realize is that the 2,58,978 votes it received in the Hills this time are not just BJP votes but boosted by voters of GNLF, GJMM,CPRM and a host of smaller parties. Assuming half of the votes it received in the Hills were votes that GNLF, GJMM, CPRM controlled, it can clearly be calculated that the BJP would never have won the Darjeeling seat on its own strength. Mr. Bista knows all too well that the support of its allies comes with a cost, which we hope will not be too heavy for the general public to pay.

One last observation on the Darjeeling verdict before I conclude is that in this elections Darjeeling has stood No 1 in West Bengal for a very dubious reason. Darjeeling has registered 3146 invalid votes which is the highest for any constituency in West Bengal. Most constituencies do not even have half this figure as rejected votes. How and why Darjeeling registered such a large number of votes under the rejected votes column is for the Officers of the ECI to explain.

(Sandip C Jain is Editor Himalayan Times and well known author and writer from Kalimpong. Views are personal. Email:

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi