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1 May 2017

Govt sacks leader from Lepcha body

RAJEEV RAVIDAS AND VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Kalimpong, April 30: The state government has removed the vice-chairman of the Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board, Yusuf Simick, from both the general and executive bodies of the body, fuelling speculations that he was sacked because of his association with the Jana Andolan Party.
In an order issued by the state tribal development department, under which the Lepcha board operates, no reason was assigned for the removal of Simick, who is a bureau member of the JAP.
Last Friday's order only mentions that Simick's nominations to both the general and executive bodies of the board stand withdrawn.
All 31 general body and 11 executive body members of the board, which is registered under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961, are nominated by the state government.
Simick said he was not aware of the reasons for his removal, but the there are speculations in the political circles that he got the axe because of his ties with the JAP, which is locked in a three-way fight with the Trinamul Congress and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Kalimpong municipality elections slated for May 14.
"Some people might have levelled allegations against me. I don't know. What I know is the tribal affairs department had nominated me to the board in 2013, and today, I am no longer in it. This is the government's decision. I have nothing to say about it," he said.
Simick has been closely associated with JAP president Harka Bahdur Chhetri since the time they got together to form the Kalimpong District Demand Committee in late 2015. He was made a member of the JAP national bureau when Chhetri formed the party on January 27, 2016.
Chhetri, too, preferred not to comment on the sacking. "It is between Yusuf, the Lepcha board and the state government. I am outside this. It will be inappropriate on my part to pass a comment," he said.
Observers, however, said the ouster was a direct result of the recent animosity between the JAP and Trinamul, particularly over the municipality elections in the hills, and, more importantly, is meant to send a larger message to members of various development boards set up by chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
"Simick's association with the JAP was known to all. The tale of his sacking lies in the timing. The JAP has angered Trinamul by not agreeing to an alliance with it for the municipality polls. What is more important, though, is the larger message being sought to be conveyed. Mamata essentially is telling the boards that she expects them to support her party in return for the largesse she has extended to the body," said an observer.
Starting with the Lepcha board that was formed in February 2013, the state government has set up 15 development bodies for various ethnic, linguistic and religious groups of the hills. The boards have been provided with generous funds to undertake various development works for the members of their respective communities.

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