The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ghisingh green light to council polls

Darjeeling, Sept. 8: Twenty-four hours after the state government announced that it was mulling extending the term of the DGHC once its tenure expires on September 25, Subash Ghisingh said he would not object to elections being held in the Hills.

The Gorkha leader today inaugurated a community hall at Bloomfield Dali here and left enough indications to suggest that the GNLF had started its election campaign. Choosing not to antagonise the vote bank, Ghisingh promised to include non-tribals in the Scheduled Tribe list in the coming days.

Inclusion of the entire Hill community in the Scheduled Tribe category has already captured the imagination of the people and this could decide the fate of the GNLF in the coming elections.

'I am pursuing the demand to declare the entire Hill community tribal. This will, however, take time and people should not be restless,' said Ghisingh. At present, only 35 per cent of the Hill community are tribals. Although it will be a Herculean task for the Gorkha leader to include Brahmins and other castes in the Scheduled Tribe list, the politician is planning to ride piggyback on the common man's emotion to win the elections.

About the need for amendment of the Indian Constitution, without which there can be no Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling, Ghisingh said: 'There is no need for a two thirds majority. A simple majority will be enough.' The leader also maintained that 'it would be their (Centre's and state) responsibility to pass the bill in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha'.

A constitutional amendment requires the approval of a two-thirds majority and since the UPA does not have the required number of MPs, the bill also needs to be endorsed by the NDA parliamentarians. Ghisingh, however, said: 'I have written to the Centre and state that this issue (Sixth Schedule) should be over by September and elections held soon afterwards. We will discuss the issues at the bureaucratic level on September 20 and 21. Once the final settlement takes place on September 22, it will be the duty of the Centre and state to hold elections as soon as possible.'

The People's Democratic Front (PDF), a coalition of anti-GNLF parties, has accused Ghisingh of adopting a carrot and stick policy. The PDF leaders claimed that a political leader could not dictate that a particular community be included in the Scheduled Tribe list. The anti-Ghisingh coalition maintained that it was ready for elections and would not allow Ghisingh to win the polls by playing with the emotions of the hill people.

'Everyone knows that an amendment of the Constitution requires a two thirds majority. But it seems Ghisingh is only interested in changing the nomenclature of the council by calling it tribal council, not in getting Sixth Schedule status. He must not say he is serving kheer, when he is actually giving khichri,' said PDF president Madan Tamang.

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