The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uphill battle on Siliguri
- Subash wants township, Buddha wants elections

Calcutta, July 15: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattachar- jee and GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh today sent out contradictory signals on elections to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), scheduled for September.

Bhattacharjee told the Assembly that Ghisingh had agreed to the polls following a meeting with him today. But the Gorkha leader remained evasive and stuck to his demand that the Siliguri subdivision be brought under the DGHC so that it can extend its sway over the entire Darjeeling district.

The government has rejected the demand.

'We want control of the entire Darjeeling district and we wouldn't mind if Dooars (which mainly falls in Jalpaiguri) is handed over to us. But the chief minister today agreed to hand over only those 14 mouzas in Siliguri subdivision that were given to the DGHC at the time of the 1988 agreement but were, in reality, not parted with,' Ghisingh said.

On whether the polls would be held by September, Ghisingh said: 'Possibilities are there. We're trying to find a way for holding the elections. We'll discuss the terms and conditions at a tripartite meeting in Delhi soon.'

Bhattacharjee, however, told the Assembly that the meeting in Delhi would be held to finalise the date for the DGHC elections. 'Ab rasta khul gaya. Chunao ke bare mein hamara koi dikkat nehin (Now the stalemate is over. I have no problem in holding the elections now)', Bhattacharjee quoted Ghisingh as saying.

'He has demanded the entire Darjeeling district, some parts of Dooars, Siliguri municipal corporation and Siliguri mahakuma parishad. I have refused this. He will submit a list of areas he has demanded and I have asked urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya to find out which areas could be handed over to the DGHC. We will take a final decision after carefully examining the two lists,' the chief minister said. He did not give a date for the meeting in Delhi.

Bhattacharjee said he had told Ghisingh that his demands for Darjeeling and Siliguri would invite trouble. 'We have agreed to hand over 14 mouzas to DGHC and informed him that two more mouzas could be given. A number of tea gardens located in the fringe hill areas where the Nepali population is high can also be given to him,' the chief minister said in the Assembly.

'I have asked Ghisingh to hold the elections as early as possible because it will take time to implement the Sixth Schedule status ' it requires a constitutional amendment. Before that he should hold the elections because he is functioning as a caretaker chief, which is not very honourable,' he said. Ghisingh, the chief minister said, had no objection to the polls as 'we had agreed to the Sixth Schedule status'.

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