The Bengal government’s decision to initiate the process of conducting two-tier panchayat elections in the hills is realigning political equations with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and its rivals, the CPRM, and the ABGL, opposing the move.
After attending an all-party meeting convened by Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava here yesterday, Trinamul and the GNLF said they were in favour of two-tier panchayat polls as early as possible. But the Morcha, CPRM, and the ABGL said they wanted three-tier elections.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri’s Jana Andolan Party has not taken a stand. But Amar Lama, a member of the JAP’s bureau, said after the meeting that it was “shameful” that the state, Centre and the Morcha had not yet solved the issue in the last five years.
The district magistrate held the meeting to apprise the parties of the state election commissioner’s directive to delimit gram panchayats and panchayat samity seats.
The Constitution was amended in 1993 so that there were only gram panchayats and panchayat samities in the hills following the establishment of the DGHC.
N.B. Khawash, the spokesman for Trinamul, said: “The Morcha is not in favour of rural polls only to maintain its dictatorship in the hills. The Morcha knows a constitutional amendment is needed to hold three-tier panchayat polls but they are using this excuse to stall rural polls.”
Sandip Limbu of the GNLF said the party wanted the rural polls as early as possible. “We are okay with two-tier polls. The people cannot be deprived of the rural administrative system for a long time.”
In the Assembly polls this year, Trinamul, GNLF and the JAP had an electoral understanding in the hills.
Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, blamed the state government for the delay in the amendment. “An amendment is needed and the chief secretary had also asked us to suggest a name for the top tier of the panchayat system for the hills in 2015. However, after that, the state government has refused to attend tripartite meetings (with the Morcha and the Centre). The last tripartite meeting was held in January 29, 2015, even though such meetings are to be held every six months,” said Giri. “We have also filed a case in the Supreme Court in June on the state’s failure to honour the provisions of the GTA agreement.”
In the GTA agreement signed in 2011, it was mentioned that the three-tier panchayat system would be restored in the hills.
Pratap Khati, the general secretary of the ABGL, also opposed the decision to hold the two-tier polls. He said the ABGL would move court if the government went ahead with the two-tier polls.
Sunil Rai of the CPRM said: “The Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad should be dissolved and the entire district should be brought under a single zilla parishad.”
But the CPM, the principal rival of Trinamul, is not opposing the government. Darjeeling district CPM secretary Jibesh Sarkar said in Siliguri today that the party would take part in the two-tier polls.
[Via: Telegraph, file pic]
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