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Poll support buzz before Morcha parleys

- Final call after Gurung meets team

Darjeeling, June 17: A section of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders wants the party to contest the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) elections as it is now clear that any decision on the inclusion of additional plains territory in the proposed autonomous set-up will take time.

Even though the Morcha is likely to take a final call on the issue only after the 21-member party delegation briefs chief Bimal Gurung about the meeting held yesterday with the state government at Writers’ Buildings, many leaders told The Telegraph that it was about time to contest the elections.

All the delegation members are expected to reach Darjeeling tomorrow.

“Personally, I think that it is time to contest the elections. Once we get the mandate, we can pursue the territory issue with the state government in a strong manner. I think the people from the Dooars and Terai will understand this aspect,” said a senior Morcha leader.

Officially, the Morcha has maintained that at the moment the prime issue is about inclusion of territory and not elections. Morcha president Bimal Gurung said yesterday: “The issue at the moment is territory, not elections. If the state government wants to go in for elections it is their choice, but at the moment we will oppose elections.”

The state government is, however, expected to issue a notification on the delimitation of the GTA constituencies later this month followed by a notification on elections.

After the meeting in Calcutta yesterday, the state government said a three-member fact-finding committee headed by Manoj Agarawal, secretary of the North Bengal development department, would look into the report of the Justice Shyamal Sen committee.

The committee is expected to place its report before the government after six months.

The Morcha was peeved that only five of the 396 mouzas demanded by the hill party from the Dooars and Terai were recommended for inclusion in the GTA. It said the report was “unfair and humiliating”.

Those in favour of contesting the elections are likely to argue before the party’s leadership that delaying the elections now would be detrimental for Morcha’s support base.

“Once we have the mandate, the party’s support base will get consolidated. Once this is taken care of, we can pursue the territory issue strongly. Even if the statehood agitation is launched immediately, not much headway can be made unless the adivasi people in the plains are brought into our fold,” said another leader.

“I personally believe that instead of renewing the statehood agitation with largely hill-centric programmes, we should first try and get the adivasi people on our side,” the leader added.

The state government, too, tried to convince the Morcha delegation that it should agree to contest the elections in the areas in the hills.

“They did try to raise the issue of elections but we told them that we only had the mandate for our party president to speak on the territory issue and not the elections. We told the government that the election was something our party president and the central committee would decide,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the Kalimpong MLA and Morcha’s spokesperson.