Though the results are a foregone conclusion, 74% polling was recorded

The results of the first-ever elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration may have been a foregone conclusion, but 74 per cent of the electorate turned up to cast their vote in the 17 constituencies where polls were held on Sunday.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has already stormed its way to taking control of the regional autonomous body with the party’s candidates in 28 constituencies winning unopposed.

The Trinamool Congress, the only other party in the contest after all the candidates of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) withdrew their nominations, had also surrendered with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing that her party was withdrawing from the race, though the announcement came too late for her party’s candidates to officially pull out.

“The elections passed off peacefully, but there wasn’t much excitement because the people already know the results,” GJM spokesperson and MLA from Kalimpong, Harka Bahadur Chettri said.

While confident of a GJM victory in all 45 seats, Dr. Chettri said the only serious contest was in Gitdabling Nimbong in Kalimpong sub-division, where a GJM rebel candidate, Sanchabir Subba contested as an Independent.

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said the decision taken by all political parties to withdraw from the contest was a sign of “the GJM’s supremacy in the Hills,” but leaders of the other political parties disagreed.

Elections to the GTA’s predecessor the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) were last held in 1999.

“The GTA election is an eye-wash and disproves any argument that speaks of a return of democracy to the Darjeeling hills,” said Govind Chettri, spokesperson for the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), one of the major non-GJM political forces in the Darjeeling hills.

He said the voter turnout was a result of the GJM’s party cadres lining up to cast their votes in an attempt to prove a point, but when no other political parties contested, the elections lost meaning.

“We do not accept the GTA, which was the reason why we did not contest these elections… The recent unrest in the areas under the Bodoland Territorial Council goes to show that such regional autonomous bodies are not the answer to the local people’s aspirations,” he said adding that the CPRM had stepped up its campaign for a separate State of Gorkhaland.

Meanwhile, Bharati Tamang, wife of the slain Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) leader, Madan Tamang, and the party’s president said: “These elections have been held over my husband’s coffin.”