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Ghisingh springs council caretaker offer

Darjeeling, March 5: The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council today adopted a resolution saying its chairman, Subash Ghisingh, would stay on as 'caretaker' while the councillors would resign from their posts.

The step is seen as a DGHC attempt to pre-empt the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government's move to appoint an administrator and not extend the term of the hill council.

The changes would be effected on March 21, four days before the DGHC's term expires on March 25, Ghisingh told a news conference after a general council meeting here.

'The general council has decided that all councillors will surrender their membership of the council to me on March 21 at 11 am at Lal Kothi. They have also passed a resolution maintaining that I should function as caretaker chairman till an alternative to the council is worked out. Following this, an election can be held and I have no objections (to that),' he said.

The Gorkha leader rejected all other arrangements that are being considered by the Centre and the Bengal government.

'The Centre wanted me to function as a full-fledged chairman for another year but the state government had its reservations on this arrangement and I, too, have said I am not interested in this.

'Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had called me a few days ago and mulled constituting an advisory board of all political parties but this is a laughable option,' Ghisingh said.

The leader also rejected the idea of appointing an administrator to the council after March 25.

But he refused to spell out what the alternative to the council would be. 'An alternative to the council has to be worked out taking into consideration the security of the country. This is why, I cannot singly spell out what it should be like,' Ghisingh said.

The GNLF leader said the immediate task for the state government would be to find a suitable solution to the 'deadlock regarding the council after March 25'.

'After the council ceases to function, making me the caretaker chairman would ensure that there is someone around to liaise between the state and the central government,' Ghisingh said, adding that the GNLF would then be forced to take up the issue.

Observers, however, believe that Ghisingh's intention is only to distance himself from some of the present councillors so that he can effectively check the growing infighting among the GNLF leaders.

The DGHC decision has, understandably, found no favour with Asok Bhattacharya, the state urban development and municipal affairs minister. He dismissed the developments as meaningless.

On Ghisingh's decision to become 'caretaker chairman', Bhattacharya said: 'Whatever decision (there is to be taken), regarding who is to take over after the DGHC's expiry, has to be done by constitutional means. A bill has to be placed and passed in the Assembly. The governor's assent will have to be sought to bring about an amendment to the DGHC Act, after which the state government will decide on further course of action. The question of Ghisingh remaining chairman does not arise at all.'

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