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Buddha dials Ghisingh before date with PM

Calcutta, March 9: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today appealed to Subash Ghisingh to call off the string of strikes his GNLF has threatened in Darjeeling.

Bhattacharjee has also lined up a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on March 19 to discuss the stand-off over the GNLF's demand for an 'alternative' to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) and the nomination of Ghisingh as caretaker once its term expires on March 26.

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

The chief minister, who telephoned Ghisingh this morning, said he did not want to get into a confrontation with the GNLF chief, 'especially in view of the situation in Nepal'.

'I asked him why he was calling the bandhs when all his demands had been met .' He listened and said he would talk to his colleagues,' the chief minister told a news conference at Writers' Buildings.

Bhattacharjee said the Left Front government is in touch with the Centre and added that he also spoke to defence minister Pranab Mukherjee in the morning. 'The Prime Minister is disturbed over the issue, and so am I,' Bhattacharjee said.

Before his meeting with the Prime Minister, the DGHC act will be amended in the Assembly on March 14.

On whether the government would consider appointing Ghisingh the DGHC administrator after March 26, the chief minister said: 'The provisions of the interim arrangement would be flexible.' There are about three to four proposals. However, I cannot tell you anything about it before it is placed in the Assembly.'

Asked if he was succumbing to pressure from the GNLF boss, Bhattacharjee said: 'I don't want to create a new front there or create any kind of confrontation. I'm trying my best to persuade him.'

As the chief minister talked peace, municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya declared war. He threatened to organise bandhs, meetings and demonstrations in the hills to counter the GNLF leader's 'unjustified demands'.

'The people of the hills won't accept this so easily. They'll raise their voices of protest.' If Ghisingh thinks he can rule like the king of Nepal, then he is very wrong. If the (DGHC's) term is over, then he has to be prepared for the elections,' he said.

'One must not make a mistake in thinking it is the same Darjeeling today. If there's an election now, the GNLF will be defeated.'

Bhattacharya said leaders of parties opposing Ghisingh would meet Bhattacharjee in Siliguri on Sunday and Left leaders Biman Bose and Anil Biswas in Calcutta two days later. A front to counter the GNLF has been formed in Darjeeling, he added.

The chief minister, asked why Ghisingh was being unreasonable, said: 'He is losing his ground and there is infighting in the GNLF'.

The chief minister said: 'I told him that if there are no elections, then the ISI would take even more advantage.' I have not announced elections in a one-sided manner.'

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