Darjeeling: Ahead of the panchayat polls in Bengal, the picturesque hills of Darjeeling saw renewed political activity with Binoy Tamang, one of the Gorkha leaders asserting that polls to village councils should be held only after “removing constitutional and judicial hurdles”.
The former Trinamool Congress leader said that cases challenging the legality of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, which replaced the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), are also pending before the Supreme Court and the Calcutta High Court.
However, many other Gorkha leaders refused to entertain the notion and either chose not to react or pointed out that there were judicial remedies to points being raised by Tamang. Panchayat polls are slated to be conducted throughout Bengal sometimes in May.
Among others, when contacted, GTA chief executive and Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha supremo Anit Thapa said he is “focussed on serving people” and would not react to Tamang’s statement.
Tamang however, called upon political leaders of the hills to come together in finding a solution to the complex problems instead of “stitching political alliances to grab power”.
“If rural elections are held without solving these problems (constitutional, parliamentary and judicial), all doors to our permanent political solution (to Gorkhaland statehood demand) will be shut forever,” Tamang, a former chairman of GTA Board of Administrators claimed in a statement.
The last panchayat election in the region was held in 2000 before the GTA was formed.
Tamang supporters point out that panchayat elections will be held under Article 243M of the Indian constitution but the Article “still refers to DGHC even though GTA has replaced it”.
A constitutional amendment rectifying this can only be made by the Indian parliament.
Tamang also pointed out that Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader Subash Ghisingh had challenged the legitimacy of GTA and the matter is still sub-judice with the apex court and the high court.
“I am not against rural polls, I just want that the panchayat elections be held in a systematic manner,” Tamang added.
However, other political leaders in the hills refused to wade into the controversy.
GNLF secretary general Neeraj Zimba told PTI, “The constitutional norms must be adhered to. The Constitution provides for two-tier panchayat system in the hills because we have special protection under Article 243M. That special provision must remain.”
“The validity of a constitutional body can only be challenged in the court, which can then direct Parliament to bring about amendments,” Zimba, also a lawyer by profession, added.
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Darjeeling’s BJP MP Raju Bista and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Roshan Giri refrained from reacting to Tamang’s statement.
Tamang, a former GJM leader who later joined the Trinamool Congress, quit the Mamata Banerjee-led party in December last year and joined hands with Hamro Party leader Ajoy Edwards and GJM leader Bimal Gurung.
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