The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No 'bowing' to Ghisingh, hill polls on time

Calcutta, Jan. 31: The government today made it clear that the elections to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council would be held by March 25 and Subash Ghisingh had been told about it.

The GNLF chief had thrown a spanner on the polls and said they could not be held till tripartite meetings also involving the state and the Centre to discuss hill issues bore fruit.

But the government today made its stand unambiguous. Urban development and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, who is also in charge of the hill affairs of the CPM, said: 'The chief minister and I have made it clear to Ghisingh that there is no reason to postpone the elections any further. If Ghisingh has any demand or grievance, it can be sorted out through bipartite or tripartite meetings, but in no circumstance should the elections be stopped.'

No particular date, however, has been set.

The elections were originally due in March 2004, but the government twice extended the tenure of the council reportedly at the behest of Ghisingh. The present term of the council ends on March 25, 2005.

'According to the DGHC Act, the government can extend the tenure of the council by a maximum of one year. So, we must hold the elections before this March 25. We are gearing up the state machinery to conduct the polls,' Bhattacharya said.

The statements, coming days after a round of tripartite talks ended in Delhi without any concrete result, are being seen as a blow to Ghisingh.

It also clears uncertainty that arose after Bhattacharjee announced in Sukna earlier this month that a decision on the council elections would be taken only after the review meeting.

On Ghisingh's threat to boycott the polls, the minister said: 'We are not in a position to bow to it. There will be a legal crisis if we cannot form the council within the due date.'

Home secretary Amit Kiran Deb said: 'Some of the (Ghisingh's) demands are not possible to meet as the law will not permit us. The council may be an elected body but the government will have to work within the framework of the law. We cannot do anything to please anybody...'

He added that the government would forward to Delhi the DGHC's demand for an annual grant. 'The DGHC wants Rs 50 crore every year. We will write to the Planning Commission about it.'

Ghisingh also wanted:

l Power to recruit teachers for hill schools and issue bus and taxi permits

l Control of hill police

l The BDO to work under the DGHC

l Funds meant for the Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling municipalities to be distributed via the council.

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