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JAP invitation regarding panchayat elections rejected

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The Jana Andolan Party today invited major hill-based parties, including the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, CPRM and ABGL, to a meeting here tomorrow to exchange views and evolve a consensus on the need to hold panchayat elections in the hills.
While the Morcha categorically said there was no question of attending the meeting, the CPRM said it couldn't take a decision at such a short notice without consulting the party's central committee. The ABGL said it was yet to receive the letter and hence, couldn't attend the meeting.<>
Bishal Rai, a spokesman for the JAP, said the party's bureau had an extensive discussion on the need to hold panchayat elections in the hills yesterday, and subsequently decided to invite all other hill-based parties for consultations to ensure that the rural polls were held at the earliest. "We have sent invitations to the Morcha, ABGL, CPRM and Gorkhaland Rashtra Nirman Morcha. The meeting will be held in our party office tomorrow," he said.
Contacted, Morcha secretary Roshan Giri said: "We are not in favour of attending the meeting. We have always demanded the holding of panchayat elections in the hills. We are even now discussing in our party whether to go ahead with two-tier panchayat system or demand three-tier panchayat elections as mentioned in the GTA agreement (of July, 2011). Once a decision is taken, we will make it public."
Govind Chhetri, the CPRM spokesman, said the party had received the JAP letter, but the matter would first have to be discussed at the central committee before taking a decision. "In fact, our central committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow. How can we then attend the JAP meeting (which is also scheduled for tomorrow)? Our party has from its very start been espousing the panchayat cause," he said.
ABGL secretary Pratap Khati said his party was yet to receive the invitation letter.
No rural polls have taken place in the hills since 2000 when elections to 112 gram panchayats in the three subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong were held. Even though the two-tier panchayat system comprising the gram sabha and panchayat samiti exists in the hills, no polls were held to panchayat samities in 2000 because of objections from Subash Ghisingh who thought they would erode the powers of the DGHC. The zilla parishad, which is the third tier of the panchayat raj system in the country, was abolished in the hills through the 73rd amendment to the Constitution in 1992 at the demand of Ghisingh.(TT)

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