| A protest meet against the special status in Kalimpong. (Chinlop Fudong Lepcha)
New Delhi, Dec. 3: The BJP today announced that it would oppose the bill conferring Sixth Schedule status on the Darjeeling hills in Bengal if it was not referred to the Standing Committee.
This has put the Centre in a spot, as the Left parties which are in power in the state, want the bill to be passed in the winter session itself. The BJP decision is being seen as a move to embarrass the government, especially after the Nandigram mess.
The party’s stance virtually makes it impossible for the government to pass the bill in the current session. An amendment bill has to be passed by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting, which should not be less than half of the total membership of the Lok Sabha. This majority cannot be mustered without the support of the BJP.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said it was an established parliamentary convention to refer a new bill to the Standing Committee. In this case, she added, it was all the more desirable as it was a Constitution amendment bill. Sushma alleged that there were misgivings about the bill in the Darjeeling hills and many outfits were disturbed about it. The opinion of all parties should have been taken into account (before the bill was drawn up), she added.
The bill will place the hills under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution with greater judicial and financial powers for the proposed Gorkha Hill Council. It was introduced in Parliament on Friday.
The BJP decision was conveyed to Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and home minister Shivraj Patil by leader of the Opposition L.K Advani.
In Darjeeling, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is banking on the BJP to shelve the bill. Last month, representatives of the party had met the BJP leaders, including Sushma, in Delhi and voiced their concern. The Morcha like some of the other opposition parties in the hills — the ABGL for example — is against the Sixth Schedule status and wants statehood instead.
The demand for special status was the brainchild of Subash Ghisingh, the GNLF chief. The opposition parties in the hills allege that Ghisingh compromised statehood for Sixth Schedule status.