June 26: Leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said the hill party was likely to contest the GTA polls, though the final decision will be taken by chief Bimal Gurung, who met P. Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi today.
The Morcha leaders, who visited Gorubathan in Kalimpong today to meet their leaders of the Dooars and the John Barla breakaway faction of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, said after a six-hour meeting that they had moved a step forward on the issue of elections.
“A meeting of the Joint Action Coordination Committee — a forum of organisations advocating inclusion of the Terai and Dooars mouzas in the GTA — was held here today,” Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the Kalimpong MLA and spokesperson for the Morcha, said after the meeting.
| (From left) Roshan Giri, John Barla and Harka Bahadur Chhetri
“There were certain differences of opinion, but finally, John Barla, who heads the committee, has said that considering the present situation in national and state levels, it is okay if the Morcha participates in the GTA polls,” Chhetri said.
“We consider it as one more positive step towards the Morcha’s participation in the GTA polls. The final call, however, lies with our party president,” he said.
According to those present at the meeting, Padam Lama, the Dooars committee president of the Morcha, and others, including Barla, had a heated exchange with the Morcha leaders from the hills over the GTA polls issue.
“Those from the Dooars opined that the Morcha should abstain from polls as only five mouzas, not 396, have been recommended by the Justice Shyamal Sen committee.
The hill Morcha leaders, however, said other political parties such as the Trinamul Congress and the CPM were already in the fray and if the Morcha stayed out of the polls, “it may put these parties at the helm of affairs in the GTA”, a source said. “The Morcha cannot afford to sit out and has to participate in the polls now, the hill leaders argued.”
The discussion became tense after a Nari Morcha leader from the hills insisted on going to polls. Her vehemence irritated the Dooars leaders, who retorted sharply.
The meeting broke up but resumed shortly after and finally, after six hours, the hill leaders briefed the media along with the Dooars and Terai members.
Sources in Barla’s lobby, however, said the Dooars leaders representing Barla had got the assurance from the hill party that it would not go to the polls unless a decision was taken on the mouzas.
Sources also revealed that several dissident tribal leaders, including some close aides of Barla, did not attend the meeting. These include leaders who are known to have initiated informal talks with Trinamul and are interested in joining the party.
“In today’s meeting, it has become evident that the Morcha leaders are putting the priority on the GTA polls because of their own political compulsions. After so many years of movement and achievement of the GTA, they cannot simply let it go as they do not have any other tool to meet the demands of development of the hill people,” a dissident leaders said.
“They had come for our assent but it hardly matters, whether we say yes or no. We are thus speaking about merging with Trinamul as it can help in meeting our basic demands, like the Morcha would do, after forming the GTA for the people in the hills.”
Morcha leaders in Dooars, when asked about the meeting, refused to speak. “Our movement for inclusion of mouzas, however, will continue in Terai and Dooars,” Padam Lama, the Dooars committee president, said.