Party fights over right

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By VIVEK CHHETRI in Darjeeling
  • Published 23.03.03

Darjeeling, March 23: Rivalry within the Congress (Hills) surfaced today as sections of party members slammed the demand of the Darjeeling district Congress Committee for absolute right to handpick candidates for the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats.

The DDC was conspicuous by its absence at the event organised by District Kisan Congress Committee (Hills) and District Youth Congress Committee (Hills) to press for more representation of the district at the Parliament and the Assembly,

Asked why the party skipped the rally, secretary of DDCC (Hills) Lawrence P.T. Lama said: “We have never recognised these two organisations and there was no question of us attending a programme organised by them.”

N.B. Khatiwada, who was given a Congress ticket from the Darjeeling constituency in the 1999 Lok Sabha election, dubbed the DDCC’s demand as “irresponsible”.

Speaking to reporters after the rally, he said: “The DDCC’s demand for absolute power to nominate candidates to Parliament is an irresponsible statement and should never have been made. If Sonia Gandhi thinks someone has the potential to become a good Parliamentarian then he or she can be given a ticket from any constituency in the country. The DDCC move is aimed at me.”

Khatiwada, a native of Sikkim, had lost to a CPM candidate after the GNLF boycotted elections in the three hill subdivisions.

He went on to explain that he enjoyed the popularity of a local leader in the hills and was more importantly a hill man.

Secretary of Kisan Congress D.K. Bomzon also denounced the DDCC’s demand claiming that the very people who were demanding tickets for grassroots-level workers were not Congress members some time ago. “We know who the grassroots leaders are and so does the public.”

Meanwhile Nakul Chhetri, treasure of DDCC said a 13-member delegation would meet party chief Sonia Gandhi and would place the demand to the AICC. “The PCC has responded positively to our demand and we are confident the AICC will also do the same,” said Chhetri.