Bimal Gurung at the news conference in Kalimpong on Wednesday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Deolo (Kalimpong), July 6: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has invited its rivals to a meeting here on July 8 to exchange opinions on the proposed memorandum of understanding it hopes to sign with the Centre and the state on an administrative arrangement for the hills.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung said representatives of all political parties were free to attend the meeting where they would be briefed on the draft agreement and could give their opinions.
“We (read party) and the people are happy with the proposed settlement. We want to know from them whether or not they share our views,” he told reporters here after holding a series of meetings with the subdivisional units of the Morcha and its various frontal organisations.
Gurung said barring a couple of issues that is yet to be thrashed out, the party was happy with the overall contents of the settlement. He, however, did not reveal the points of disagreement. “We will reach a settlement within the next four-five days,” he said.
Asked if the date had been finalised, he retorted: “It will happen tomorrow if I want. We are not in a hurry. The draft is almost ready. There are a couple of points that need to be rectified.”
Morcha rivals, however, are not too enthused about Friday’s meet. “We will take a decision on whether or not to attend the meeting after we receive a formal invitation. We will first have to know and discuss what are the issues they want to talk about,” said Gobind Chhetri, the spokesperson for the CPRM.
ABGL president Bharati Tamang said she wouldn’t want to comment on the Morcha invite.
Asked if the agreement would be signed without thrashing out the territory issue of territorial jurisdiction of the new authority, Gurung said the proposed high-powered committee to identify the Gorkha-dominated areas in the Dooars and Terai would be formed the moment the agreement was signed. The Morcha wants the Gorkha dominated pockets of the Dooars and the Terai to be brought under the proposed hill council, a demand that has met with stiff opposition from many outfits in the plains.
The Mamata Banerjee-led government has assured the Morcha that a committee would be formed to look into the demand.
“Within six months of its formation, the high-powered committee will submit its report. Till then, a board of administrators will be running the DGHC. Once the territory issue is settled, we will have the election (for the new administrative set-up),” he said.
Gurung reiterated that some of the mouzas each from the Dooars and Terai that the party wants included in the new set-up may not eventually fall in its ambit, but the Morcha would ensure that even those areas were well looked after.
He also asserted that he will not be holding any office in the new arrangement. “Our vice-president or the secretary may hold the post. I will remain where I am,” he said.
Gurung was responding to a query that cited his earlier pronouncements that none of the party leaders would hold any chair in any administrative arrangement for the hills.
Asked how his three MLAs would work under the bureaucrats like the principal secretary and district magistrate in the board of administrators in the DGHC, Gurung said egos should not come in the way of governance.
Earlier in the day, Col (retd) D.K. Pradhan, the GNLF-C president, had raised the issue of protocol and wondered how elected representatives could take orders from the bureaucrats in the DGHC.
“Look at the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority which is headed by the MLA from Siliguri and where the DMs and ADMs are under him. Why can’t the same be done in the DGHC? Furthermore, instead of the DGHC, the Morcha should ask the body to be named the Darjeeling-Dooars Development Authority so that development activities are taken up simultaneously in the hills and the Gorkha-dominated areas in the Dooars and Terai,” he said.