Set-up a forward step, PC tells Morcha – New body only after Assembly elections

The Telegraph

Jan. 25: P. Chidambaram today said the “interim set-up” mooted for Darjeeling would not affect the demand for Gorkhaland, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has claimed.

“The Union home minister was of the opinion that the forward path towards statehood was the interim set-up…,” read a statement issued by Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri after a meeting with the Union home minister in New Delhi. Giri was part of a five-member delegation that held talks with Chidambaram.

The Morcha said it had also asked the home minister why an interim set-up should precede the final solution. “To this question the home minister maintained that he was in favour of the Gorkhas being in administrative control of the area where its population resides. He however maintained that this includes issues concerning territory which would take some time to reach a consensus and hence the interim set-up ladder was needed,” the statement reads.

Sources in the administration said an agreement on the interim set-up could be reached as early as February. However, the implementation of the set-up is likely to take place only after the Assembly elections.

This is largely because Bengal minister Asok Bhattacharya, who was also present at the talks, made it clear to Chidambaram that it was unlikely that the state government would be able to hold panchayat and civic elections in the Darjeeling hills before the Assembly polls. At an earlier meeting, the state, Centre and the Morcha had agreed to form the interim authority by proportional representation for which rural and municipal elections are a must.

Chidambaram, who agreed with Bhattacharya, made it clear that it would take at least another six-seven months — provided the Assembly polls are held in May — to form the interim authority.

“I mentioned that the state government is sincere to form the interim authority for hills but it should be done only after the party concerned (Morcha) proves its support base by obtaining people’s mandate through elections in panchayats or civic bodies. The success of a strike called by a party cannot be the parameter to gauge it’s support,” Bhattacharya, who was accompanied by home secretary G.D. Gautama, told The Telegraph over the phone from Delhi.

Chidambaram today first met the state government representatives after which he sat with the Morcha delegation. Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh and the interlocutor for the tripartite talks, Lt Gen (retd) Vijay Madan, were also present at the meeting.

Bhattacharya claimed that Chidambaram “praised the sincerity” of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in resolving the Darjeeling issue.

“He also asked me to come up some suggestions. I requested him to ask the Morcha leaders to refrain from strikes and road blockades. We have also made it clear that the state is earnest to provide regional autonomy to Darjeeling hills but would not agree to separate statehood,” he said.

Chidambaram later informed Bhattacharya that his message had been passed to the Morcha.

“They said they would discuss the matter with their party president and get back to him,” Bhattacharya said.


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