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15 Jun 2017

IAS officers sent to GTA in poll-delay signal

Police at Malidhura, where the Morcha held a meeting. Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Calcutta, June 14: The Mamata Banerjee government today posted two more IAS officers in the secretariat of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-run GTA, leading to speculation that polls to the hill body, due next month, might be delayed and administrators would run it for some time.
"According to the GTA Act, the state government can run the elected body through administrators for six months after its five-year tenure comes to an end. If the ongoing situation in the hills pose a hurdle to holding the elections, the government has every opportunity to use that window," a senior Nabanna official said.
A government order released today said C. Murugan, a 2007-batch IAS officer, had been sent to the GTA as secretary, and Deepap Priya P, a 2011-batch IAS officer, as executive director. Both officers will report to Barun Roy, who was recently made the GTA principal secretary.
Officials pointed out that until now, the post of secretary in the GTA would be held either by a WBCS officer or a promoted IAS officer, while that of executive director was meant for those passing the state civic service exams.
"Sending two young and energetic IAS officers to the GTA is significant. It seems the government wants to strengthen its team of officers in the body. If the GTA has to be run by a board of administrators, the state would require a strong team," an official said.
A section of officials in the know of the development said the government might not hold the elections to the GTA soon after its tenure ends in July.
The officials attributed the possible rethink on holding the polls to two reasons.
First, the ruling establishment feels that with the Morcha raising the statehood demand again and rival parties showing signs of supporting it, the political landscape has changed in the hills.
"The ruling party feels that the Morcha has regained some of its lost support base by giving the call for agitation over Gorkhaland. No party would like to face an election in such a situation. The Trinamul leaders in the hills know that securing a high attendance rate in government offices during the agitation cannot be compared to taking on the Morcha in the GTA elections right now," an official said.
Second, the state government thinks that keeping the Morcha out of power is necessary at this juncture to weaken its grip on the area, the sources said.
Political observers said that if the Morcha did not run the GTA for a while, it was bound to lose some of its base in the absence of any authority to take up projects.
"Instead, Trinamul can try to win over the local people, with the government carrying out projects through the board of administrators. Six months is enough time to undertake projects like developing roads and installing drinking water facilities," said an observer.
Some officials said the government could delay the GTA elections also because the finance department team, which is currently carrying out a special audit of the hill body, had informed Nabanna that they would take some time to complete  the process as there were several anomalies in the way the Morcha was running the office.

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