Rivals ready for polls, not hill set-up – ABGL questions the role of cabinet committee

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Dec. 23: All major parties in the hills are willing to contest the municipality and rural polls but most of the rivals of Bimal Gurung are reluctant to form the board for the interim authority if they win, in which case the set-up might end up as a non-starter.

With the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha agreeing to contest the local body polls, elections to the panchayat, due since 2005, and the municipalities in the region can now be held.

The Morcha’s decision to contest the election has set in motion a process to form the new set-up as it has been agreed that the board of the Gorkhaland Regional Authority will be formed through proportionate representation, depending on the number of seats won in the panchayat and the municipalities.

The mode of forming the board had been a major bone of contention between the Morcha and the government with the hill party demanding that it be allowed to nominate all the members to the GRA. The state was, however, adamant that the board should be formed either through direct or indirect election.

The Morcha’s election decision followed by the Union home minister P. Chidambaram’s reported assurance that the note on the interim set-up would now be placed at a meeting of the cabinet committee on security has suddenly raised the possibility of elections in the hills.

“We welcome the government’s decision to hold the municipality and panchayat elections. We will definitely contest these elections but at the same time, we will not participate in the formation of the board,” said Narayan Chhetri, spokesperson for the ABGL, a major Morcha rival. This essentially means that if the rival camp goes on to win the elections, the GRA will be a non-starter.

The ABGL is of the opinion that the Centre’s decision to place the proposal for an interim set-up at the CCS meeting is just a face-saver. “The Morcha delegation had been camping in the capital for long and this is just a face saver for them so that they can return and tell the people that something is moving in Delhi,” said Chhetri.

The involvement of the CCS had been forced by the developments after the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang on May 21, the party feels. “When the DGHC was formed in 1988, no green light from the CCS was needed. This time the Centre is involving the CCS as senior Morcha leaders have been named in the FIR we have filed but they have not yet been arrested. The murder case is also being handed over to the CBI and this is why the CCS is being brought into the picture,” said Chhetri.

The ABGL still believes that the government cannot form the interim set-up without consulting the other parties in the hills as well.

“Eight political parties from the hills have already told the Union home minister that we are against the interim set-up. The government cannot ignore the Opposition (rival) voice,” said Chhetri.

The CPRM, too, said it had no issues contesting the elections.

“It is a democratic process and we will always welcome it. However, if the law and order situation is not improved and if democratic rights of the people like freedom of expression are not safeguarded, participating in the elections will be a futile exercise,” said R.B. Rai, general secretary of the CPRM.

The stand of the GNLF, which wants Sixth Schedule status for the hills, could not be immediately known as party president Subash Ghisingh could not be contacted.


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