The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gifts & Ghisingh growl
- Hill leader walks out of the Writers' in a huff

Calcutta, Feb. 8: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's meeting with Subash Ghisingh ended today with the GNLF chief walking out of Writers' Buildings in a huff, reiterating that he did not want elections in the hills.

'If you, after hearing me, still want to hold the elections, go ahead and do it'. Let it be a one-sided affair,' Ghisingh told the chief minister before leaving his office this morning.

The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) is scheduled to go to polls by March 25.

The meeting, which lasted over an hour and ended in a virtual fiasco, started on a warm note. Bhattacharjee gave Ghisingh a shola image of Durga and the Gorkha leader gifted a shawl. 'I may be a communist and an atheist but this is a work of art,' a smiling Bhattacharjee told Ghisingh.

It did not take too long for the bonhomie to ebb with the hill leader insisting that the GNLF would not participate in the poll process till 'problems affecting the council' are sorted out.

'I don't understand why he (Ghisingh) is not wanting elections in the hills despite the fact that I have agreed to accede to all his demands concerning the council. I am running out of time as we have to complete the entire election process by March 26,' Bhattacharjee said later.

He added that both Union home minister Shivraj Patil and defence minister Pranab Mukherjee were briefed about the outcome of the talks.

The state has already extended the DGHC's term twice. 'We are ready to hold the elections before the deadline expires, but Ghisingh cited ISI activities and some other problems as an excuse to defer the polls. I cannot subscribe to his logic. Elections were held even in Kashmir, a hub of ISI activities,' the chief minister said.

However, Bhattacharjee also made it clear he did not want the elections 'without Ghisingh's consent'. He said: 'Ghisingh told me he would consult lawyers. I can wait a few more days presuming that good sense will prevail... But time is very short.'

Bhattacharjee suggested that another meeting among the three signatories ' the Centre, the state and the GNLF ' to the DGHC accord of 1988 could be arranged, as suggested by Ghisingh, to look into the problems affecting the council, only if he agrees to participate in the polls.

The chief minister said he accepted most of Ghisingh's demands ' that of a CBI probe into an assassination attempt on him, of recharting some of the territories under Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad into the council and of an arrangement to get funds directly from Delhi. 'But I did not concede when he demanded that Darjeeling be declared tribal land. Many Nepalese live in Darjeeling. How can it be a tribal land' he asked.

'Ghisingh told me that he did not want the word 'autonomous' in the DGHC... I offered to drop it in an hour, but still he refused to accept the elections,' said Bhattacharjee.

The GNLF chief said the council had become a 'child afflicted with polio, which cannot stand on its own'.

'I told the chief minister that the council is in suspended animation. Its defects have to be repaired and more powers delegated.'

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