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19 Dec 2016

Morcha mired in troubles - Madan case & civic power void pose problems for hill party

The Trinamul Mahila Congress procession in Darjeeling on Sunday. (Mohan Lama)
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Dec. 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha would be out of power by default in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik municipalities after two days and recent developments are hitting the spine of the Morcha leadership hard in the ongoing wintry month.
The tenure of the four hill civic boards will come to an end on December 21 and with no word on urban elections, state government-appointed administrators are expected to take charge of the municipalities.
Amar Singh Rai, the chairman of Darjeeling municipality, said: "The tenure of our board will come to an end on December 21 but there is no word from the government on the next step."
Samirdeep Blone, the chairman of Kurseong municipality, said: "We would want elections as early as possible but there is no word from the government."
Morcha leaders admit in private that the party will have little control on affairs of the four municipalities once the administrators take charge. "Elections will probably take place after a few months. But facing an election when one is still at the helm of affairs definitely makes things easier. The appointment of an administrator is not the most comfortable situation for the party," said a Morcha leader.
The Morcha leadership is likely to hit a hurdle as many of its senior leaders, including president Bimal Gurung, party general secretary Roshan Giri and assistant secretary Binay Tamang are bogged down in the developments surrounding the Madan Tamang murder case.
Twenty-three Morcha leaders and activists will have to go down to Calcutta and surrender before the city and session court by December 21 in the Madan Tamang murder case. Calcutta High Court has set the condition that once the trial starts, probably from February, the 23 accused cannot leave the jurisdiction of Calcutta Police without the court's permission.
With 95 witnesses, even a speedy trial is expected to be drawn for a few months. During this phase, apart from the municipalities, elections might be held to panchayats in the hills and the GTA. The tenure of the GTA ends in August.
"Senior party leaders are now preoccupied with the case. They are exploring possibilities of getting the condition on their bail waived. Against this background, party activities are bound to suffer," said the Morcha leader.
Bimal Gurung is expected to fly straight to Calcutta from Delhi tomorrow. Other senior party leaders will also be leaving Darjeeling for Calcutta tomorrow to obtain anticipatory bail.
While the Morcha is busy with legal matters, the Trinamul Congress has upped its ante in the hills. The women wing of Trinamul today brought out a rally from Lebong to Darjeeling - the 8km-long procession is the longest by the party in recent times - and organised a public meeting at Chowk Bazar here.
Sharda Rai Subba, the president of the Darjeeling hill unit of the Trinamul Mahila Congress, said: "The tenure of the hill municipalities is coming to an end on December 21 and administrators will take charge. The GJM-controlled civic bodies have been the most inefficient and administratively weak ones."
She added: "We need to make the civic board administratively strong. People should start choosing their own candidates for the civic election and the TMC will extend support to the candidates who are people's choice."
Harka Bahadur Chhetri's Jana Andolan Party has also become a threat to the Morcha. The JAP will form the student's board at Kalimpong College tomorrow.

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