The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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GNLF mum on House hill bill debate

Calcutta/Darjeeling, March 15: The Bengal government will table a motion in the Assembly tomorrow to discuss the granting of an autonomous status and self-governing authority to the hills under the Sixth Schedule.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will move the motion and there will be a discussion in the House for an hour. However, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), the main force behind bringing about the Sixth Schedule status for the Darjeeling hills, is likely to stay away from the discussion.

Two of the party's MLAs, Shanta Chhetri and Goulan Lepcha, will be present at the House, but none will take part in the discussion, a GNLF source said.

Though the GNLF leadership did not disclose the reason behind not participating in the debate, political observers believe that the party did not want to record their speech in the Assembly.

GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh's one-point agenda of granting the Sixth Schedule status to the hills ' as enjoyed by some areas in the Northeast ' was successful after a memorandum of settlement was signed on December 6, 2005, in Delhi between the Centre, state and the GNLF.

According to the memorandum, the new entity will be called Gorkha Hill Council, Darjeeling, and elections will take place within six months of enactment of the Parliamentary Act.

The Centre has to amend Article 244 of the Constitution to include the new council in the Sixth Schedule.

While the Congress is expected to support the Bill when placed in Parliament for amendment, the BJP has not yet spelled out its stand. The support of the BJP and its allies is considered the most crucial as a two-third majority is needed for a Constitutional amendment.

Ghisingh, however maintained: 'It was now the responsibility of the Centre and the state to see that the Constitution is amended.'

Though Ghisingh expressed his thanks to Bhattacharjee for the settlement of his long-standing demand, he was reportedly not fully happy as the government refused to include the entire Siliguri subdivision within the jurisdiction of the new council.

The government had put its foot down and said he will get only 16 Siliguri mouzas.

With this part of his demand remaining unfulfilled, an 'unhappy' Ghisingh is likely to continue his demand of including the entire Siliguri subdivision in the new council, political observers said.

With a resolution to fight on for the Siliguri demand, Ghisingh can hardly want any of his party MLAs to speak anything on the issue in the Assembly, which might restrict them from pressing their demands later, political observers said.

Regarding the motion discussion tomorrow, PDF chairman Madan Tamang said: 'With the Assembly elections round the corner, it is just a compulsion for the state. They are trying to keep Ghisingh in good humour, expecting his support during the polls.'

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