Gurung in Singamari on Saturday. (Suman Tamang)
Darjeeling, Aug. 24: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said it was “willing to attend” the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Sabha meeting on September 4 to elect the hill administration’s chief executive but only if the arrested GTA Sabha members are released on bail before that.
The Morcha has expressed its willingness to elect a new chief executive, the post from which party chief Bimal Gurung resigned on July 31. The party had yesterday indicated that it could attend the meeting as it did not want the government to appoint a chief executive of the state’s choice.
The condition it has set, however, is being seen as the Morcha’s plan to put pressure on the state government not to make further arrests.
Ten GTA Sabha members, including Morcha assistant secretary Binay Tamang, have been arrested so far since the latest phase of the statehood agitation began on July 29.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, also an elected GTA Sabha member, said today: “We have heard that the state government wants to convene a meeting to elect a new chief executive on September 4. We are willing to elect a new chief executive but if the 10 GTA Sabha members are not released by then, none of the other elected members will attend the meeting.”
He added that the GTA was yet to receive any letter from the government on the meeting.
Legal experts said the arrested GTA members of the Morcha have the option of seeking parole for a day to cast their vote.
A lawyer said: “There are precedents of elected MLAs and MPs being released on parole so that they can cast their votes. The Morcha members can apply for a day’s parole and the court will most probably grant it.”
Giri, however, said the party was not considering seeking parole. “We are not talking of parole. We want the arrested GTA Sabha members to be released on bail.”
R.D. Meena, principal secretary of the GTA, said the meeting would be held on September 4.
“We have issued the letter to the elected GTA members who are lodged in correctional homes. Because of the ongoing strike (in the hills), we are not being able to send the letter to the other elected members. We have, however, delivered the letter to the chairman of the Sabha (Morcha vice-president Bhupendra Pradhan). The rest of the members will receive the letter by Monday or Tuesday,” Meena said.
Meena said only the 45 elected members would be invited to the meeting. The GTA also has five nominated members, who do not have voting rights.
The Morcha had earlier said it wanted to appoint Birkhu Bhusal, an 85-year-old Morcha leader and one of the nominated members to the GTA, as the next chief executive for “an interim period”.
“Without holding elections, a nominated member can be made the chief executive for an interim period (15 days). We had sent a letter to the state government (recommending Bhusal). However, we will not disclose the name we have in mind now to head the GTA,” Giri said.
Sources in the Morcha said the party did not want to leave the GTA immediately as it was against “handing over all powers to the state government”.