Niraj Lama in Darjeeling
March 23. — Mr Subash Ghisingh was today made the “sole caretaker” of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council by a state government which has been until recently describing the GNLF leader as “undemocratic” and even accusing him of trying to “blackmail” the government.
But the announcement was predictable. Despite all the inhibitions the state government was displaying in meeting Mr Ghisingh’s demands, the hesitation was, apparently, only feigned, observers point out. Otherwise, how can the state government appoint such a person to run the Hill Council single-handedly, who did not convene the meetings of the DGAHC’s General Council for the last four years? The council budget was also never prepared in the last 14 years, and money was reportedly spent in an ad-hoc manner.
The state government’s stand has been strange. While urban development minister, Mr Asok Bhattacharya, called the GNLF leader a “fascist,” the government, which has its nominees in the Hill Council, submitted an affidavit to the High Court, saying it had no knowledge that the General Council had not met for the last four years. The affidavit had to be submitted against a writ petition challenging the extensions granted by the government to the Hill Council.
So, why is the state government bending backwards to accommodate the man? For a simple reason — Mr Ghisingh effectively puts a lid on the demand for Gorkhaland in the Hills. If the GNLF in 1980s was the champion of Gorkhaland, today the game-keeper has turned poacher and is most effective in snuffing out “separatist fires”, wherever they break out.
In his affidavit to the High Court, Mr Ghisingh describes some of the Opposition leaders as “extremists”, who are demanding Gorkhaland. The state government is also worried over the rise of the Opposition in the Hills, who they fear, will sooner or later raise the call for Gorkhaland.
And what will the man himself do, now that he has the keys to the castle? Mr Ghisingh is expected to recruit a fresh set of more acceptable faces to stand for council elections, as and when they take place. He knows that his councillors have been his biggest liability, and he has very cleverly eased them out of power by making them surrender their posts on Monday. Mr Ghisingh hopes he will get another chance, if he can offer people better choice for councillors, when elections take place. And there’s always the Buddha administration to fall back on, if that doesn’t work.