With the stage getting set for one of the keenest electoral battles in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress chairperson and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has accused the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) of failing to suggest a candidate for Darjeeling seat, despite being approached by her repeatedly.

“I asked them once, twice, thrice. My deadline for nominations was approaching. Each time, they told me, party meye charcha ho raha hai (it is being discussed in the party). Theirs is a big party and they need a lot of confabulations. But the fact remains that they had failed to suggest the name of any son of the hills. They instead brought an outsider,” Ms. Banerjee thundered at a rally at Darjeeling on Sunday morning.

It may be mentioned that the GJM has maintained that they will not support Trinamool Congress candidate Bhaichung Bhutia as they were not consulted on the issue and because he was from Sikkim and not Darjeeling.

“You say Mr. Bhutia is an outsider. I ask is he not a son of the hills? Has he not done the country and the State proud (by taking residency here)?” She assured the gathering that Mr. Bhutia would work for the development of the hills and she would back all his efforts.

She also reminded the gathering how her partymen had distributed ration among people when the GJM-backed strikes had brought life to a standstill at the peak of the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland.

“They have got the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. What work have they done? Please ask them,” she said, adding that it does not help to only ignite passions, there has to be development too. Darjeeling has seen some high profile and high decibel campaigning with the party bigwigs marking their presence there.

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi campaigned for the party nominee S S Ahluwalia - for the first time taking off the kid gloves that he had donned against Ms. Banerjee during his earlier rally in the city.

Senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechuri too campaigned for his party candidate as did Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury. The seat is held by the BJP and goes to polls on April 17.

Many political pundits see this as a battle between Ms. Banerjeee and GJM chief Bimal Gurung. Ms. Banerjee carried the crowd with her fiery speech but also urged them with folded hands in her own inimical manner, not to turn her away.

“I have made over 40 visits against the nil of the past government. I will keep coming. Please do not drive me away,” she said.

She said that her party’s Rajya Sabha member and actor Mithun Chakravarty has been given charge of Darjeeling and he would work towards its progress.

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