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Ghisingh keeps crown, courtesy Kathmandu

Calcutta, March 23: Ending days of speculation, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today named Subash Ghisingh the sole administrator of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council with caretaker powers for six months from March 26.

The term of the present council, run by Ghisingh's party, the GNLF, ends on March 25.

The chief minister said in the Assembly the decision was taken in consultation with the Centre to avoid any confrontation in the hills, especially in the wake of the turmoil in neighbouring Nepal.

Bhattacharjee discussed the impasse with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 19 and spoke to Union home minister Shivraj Patil yesterday. Sources said the state government was following Delhi's advice in handling Darjeeling with care so that law and order in the hills was not disturbed at this juncture.

'The Prime Minister wants peace to be maintained in the hills in view of the current situation in Nepal,' Bhattacharjee said. He added that the state wants the elections to the council held by September ' within six months of the end of the council's tenure.

'I feel Ghisingh will agree to holding the elections within six months and the central government should also try to convince him about it,' the chief minister said.

Ghisingh's opposition to the polls till his demands regarding the council's powers were met had led to the impasse and the postponement of the elections slated for February.

As Bhattacharjee announced Ghisingh's name for administrator, lone SUCI MLA Debaprasad Sarkar walked out of the House.

According to the gazette notification, Ghisingh will function as an 'administrator of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council with caretaker power of general council'.

The Assembly passed an amendment bill on March 4 to pave the way for an extension of the council's term for six months. Without the amendment, the government could not have prolonged the term, which was twice extended earlier.

The chief minister's statement came a couple of days after all 25 GNLF councillors in the DGHC resigned to mount pressure on the government to appoint Ghisingh the caretaker administrator.

Bhattacharjee said the government wanted an all-party board of administrators with the GNLF chief as chairman, but Ghisingh did not agree.

He has been running the council since it came into existence in 1988.

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