The election on Sunday for the next “Kalon Tripa,” chairperson of the cabinet of the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile, also referred to as its Prime Minister, generated keen interest in the Darjeeling hills not just within the Tibetan community there but also among the rest of the local population. The reason: two of the three candidates in the fray have a special connection with the region.

While Lobsang Sangay was born and brought up in the hills, Tenzin Namgyal Tethong was a student in one of the schools in Darjeeling. The third candidate is Kasur Tashi Wangdi.

The election is being considered especially significant as it is being held in the backdrop of the Dalai Lama announcing his intention to step down as the political head of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

“There are more than 2,000 registered voters in the Darjeeling hills,” Tsewang Tashi, settlement officer appointed for the region told The Hindu over phone from Darjeeling.

“That two out of the three candidates have a connection with Darjeeling with one of them, Mr Sangay, being born in Lamahatta in the sub-division has drawn the interest of the local population here even though this is not a deciding factor for the voters,” Mr. Tashi said.

Both had their schooling in Darjeeling. Mr. Sangay passed out of the Central School for Tibetans and did his Plus Two at St. Joseph's College in the hill town. Mr. Tethong was a student of Mt. Hermon School.

Tibetans registered voters across the world made their choice for the “Kalon Tripa” on the day.

There are nearly 1.5 lakh such voters of which between 80,000 to 1,00,000 are in India.

“Twenty persons, all members of the Darjeeling region election commission of the government-in-exile administration were in charge of the election process in the hills. There were seven polling booths, including three mobile booths, across the region where voters exercised their franchise”, Mr. Tashi said.

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