The “water war” in Darjeeling politics has reached a new level with Ajoy Edwards on Tuesday releasing a purported WhatsApp conversation between Anit Thapa and a contractor and Thapa reacting sharply to it.
Edwards, the president of Hamro Party, earlier alleged that a commission of 7 per cent was being demanded from contractors of the Rs 1,500 crore Jal Jeevan Mission jobs that are being executed in Darjeeling hills.
Thapa, who is the chief executive of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and president of Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM), along with his supporters, had asked for evidence to substantiate the charges.
Edwards on Tuesday posted screenshots of WhatsApp messages allegedly shared between Thapa and Mirik contractor Pukar Tamang.
“Anit Thapa had asked a Mirik contractor who had successfully bid for a water project for 7% upfront commission money. When the contractor told him that he could not execute a good job for the people by giving bribe, he asked him to withdraw from the tender of Jal Jeevan Mission....,” Edwards wrote on his verified Facebook page on Tuesday.
Edwards added that Thapa purportedly told the contractor to contact some executive engineer and said he would “give GTA contracts”.
The WhatsApp message does not contain the demand for 7 per cent commission but Hamro Party leaders said Thapa had deleted this particular message.
The JJM is being undertaken by the state PHE department through the Neora Valley water supply and maintenance division but the payments are made after GTA engineers place certified bills before the division.
“On one hand he (Thapa) says he is not involved in the JJM, on the other hand he is trying to put fear in ordinary contractors so that they withdraw from tenders for water project....” Edwards added.
Thapa reacted sharply to the charges.
“Ask him (the contractor) whether I demanded money or offered help while undergoing the project work.... A contractor from Mirik had applied for a tender related to work in Sitong. I told him that Sitong work would be done by people from Sitong and that he should work in Mirik. I had further offered him help if needed,” said Thapa alleging he also had information that Edwards took a commission of Rs 30 lakh for a project.
Thapa challenged Edwards to bring the contractor before him.
Later in the evening, Hamro Party released a video where a person identified as the contractor was seen acknowledging all the allegations that a HamroParty leader was making, which included indirect threats from BGPM leaders following Thapa’s alleged move to withdraw from the tender.