A Morcha march in Darjeeling on Wednesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Sept. 4: The GTA Sabha meeting to elect the new chief executive did not happen today in the absence of quorum as most of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha members did not turn up.
The failure to elect a GTA chief may give the state government the opportunity to appoint an administrator to run the autonomous hill council, that may prove to be a problem for the hill party.
However, if the government dissolves the GTA Sabha, it would in a way show the set-up has been a failure, which the Morcha wants to prove somehow.
A large section of Morcha leaders is of the opinion that the GTA is coming in the way of the statehood agitation.
Of the 45 elected GTA members, only its chairman, Bhupendra Pradhan and his deputy Lopshang Yolmo went to meet GTA principal secretary R.D. Meena today.
Meena had called a meeting with a single-point agenda of electing the next GTA chief executive following Bimal Gurung’s resignation on July 30.
No decision of the Sabha can be taken unless there are at least 15 members — one-third of the 45 members are required for quorum.
Pradhan said: “The meeting was called and I along with Lopshang Yolmo, deputy chairman of the Sabha, were present along with the principal secretary of the GTA, R.D. Meena. Later, two elected members, P.T. Ola and Trilok Chand Roka, came and handed me a petition signed by 29 elected members that election for the new chief executive cannot be held unless the 10 elected GTA Sabha members are released along with others.”
Over 1,000 Morcha leaders and supporters have been taken into custody since the fresh statehood agitation began on July 29.
Gurung was not a signatory to the petition because he has already quit the Sabha.
Pradhan refused to show the petition to the media.
He said: “They (the GTA members) are of the opinion that a new chief executive could also have been elected from the 10 arrested GTA Sabha members and hence it is not possible to hold the meeting now.”
Meena said: “The chairman has handed me a resolution of the petition submitted by the GTA members and I will forward it to the state government.”
Other than Gurung, no other member of the Morcha has quit the GTA.
Unless the Sabha had been given an opportunity to elect a new chief executive following Gurung’s resignation, the government’s decision to push for its own candidate could have been challenged, even legally.
Sources in the administration said the state government could either nominate a member for a certain period under Section 37, sub-section 8, of the GTA Act or dissolve the Sabha and appoint a board of administrators under Section 64 of the act.
Section 37, sub-section 8 states that if the election of the chief executive is “pending”, the government “may appoint by name one of the Members to be the Chief Executive who shall hold office as Chief Executive” until somebody is “elected in accordance with the provisions of the Act…”.
Since the act says “one of the Members”, Morcha sources said the state government may appoint one of its nominated members. Trinamul has three nominated members among the five.
“However, a nominated person can hold office for only 15 days,” said an administrative source.
Observers believe that the government can also use Section 64 to dissolve the GTA on the ground that it has “shown its incompetence to perform, or has made default in its performance” or had “abused its power”.
However, the government has to direct that the Sabha be reconstituted within a period “not exceeding six months”.
Morcha sources said the party leaders were aware of all the provisions. “If they dissolve the GTA ultimately, it will be proved that the experiment is a failure. Let us see what the government has to say now. We are demanding the release of 10 elected GTA members and others arrested in the agitation to elect a new chief as of now,” said a Morcha leader.
Before dissolving the GTA, the government has to, however, give “the GTA an opportunity of making representation to the Government in respect of the same”.
The Sabha can be dissolved by an order in the Official Gazette stating the reasons.