Top contests of 2014: Baichung Bhutia vs SS Ahluwalia

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Kolkata, March 17: The Darjeeling seat in North Bengal will see an absorbing contest this year. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has fielded former footballer Baichung Bhutia from this seat while the BJP has fielded veteran leader S S Ahluwalia against him. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, a local force, has backed Ahluwalia to protest the TMC's decision to field Bhutia, a resident of Sikkim. The Congress has fielded Sujay Ghatak from this seat.

[Read: Top contests of 2014]

2009 result: Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh won from this seat last time. He defeated CPI(M)'s Jibesh Sarkar by 2,53,289 votes.

Darjeeling will go to the polls on April 17.

About Baichung Bhutia (TMC)

The former captain of the Indian football team, Bhutia, 38, is a fresher in politics. His candidature by party chief Mamata Banerjee is a tactical ploy to tackle the GJM with which she has a love-hate relation. The GJM has strongly opposed Bhutia's nomination and described him as an 'outsider' but will have its task cut out in countering the iconic footballer's influence among the young voters in the hills of North Bengal. We have to wait till May 16 to see who finally prevails.

About S S Ahluwalia (BJP)

Sixty-three-year-old S S Ahluwalia has been a member of the Rajya Sabha from Bihar and Jharkhand. He was also the deputy leader of the opposition in the Upper House of the Parliament.

Mamata Banerjee has made a shrewd move in fielding Baichung but will it work?

The (CPI-M) has fielded Saman Pathak from this seat.

Analysis: Singh, the sitting BJP MP from this seat, was often accused of not raising issues related to Darjeeling. Yet, the backing of the GJM might work to the BJP's advantage. But at the same time, Bhutia will represent Mamata Banerjee, who is the most powerful leader in West Bengal at the moment. All in all, it will be a close contest.

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