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Assembly election a factor in restoring peace in Darjeeling hills: GNLF

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The Gorkha National Liberation Front today heralded the recently concluded Assembly election as a force that has played a major role in restoring democracy in the hills even as it maintained winning or losing to be a secondary issue.
Indramani Rai, the GNLF Darjeeling town committee president, praised the part played by the district administration and the police, along with the election commission for ensuring polling went about peacefully. He said, “The election was peaceful and smooth and everyone could exercise their franchise freely. It is our opinion that democracy is not lost here and for this we must thank the election commission, administration and the police department.”
The GNLF did not field candidates from the hills for the state Assembly election, and instead chose to extend support to the Trinamool Congress in Darjeeling and Kurseong and to the Jan Andolan Party in Kalimpong.
Rai said the election was only an exercise to test the waters for the party’s future activities in the hills and that victory and loss were not the end factors. “We thank the voters who rallied behind candidates we supported. But the bigger issue for us is the difference in victory margin achieved by the winning candidates. This will pave the way for our party’s future political activities,” the GNLF town committee president said.
On whether the GNLF would participate in the upcoming panchayat election in November-December, Rai said, “We are not concentrating on the panchayat election as our agenda of implementing the Sixth Schedule in the hills is more important. Besides, we will first have to go through the provision of the Sixth Schedule to see if things like panchayat election can be conducted.”
In December 2005, GNLF president Subash Ghisingh and the central government had signed a Memorandum of Agreement to bring the Darjeeling hills under the Sixth Schedule. A bill had also been placed in Parliament in 2007, but it was put in the backburner following opposition by the BJP when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha objected to it.
“We still maintain that granting Sixth Schedule status to the Darjeeling hills is the best and only plausible solution to the problems that keep haunting the region. It was our Subash Ghisingh’s vision and political acumen to make the demand because Bengal had given us everything in its power then. The issue is still alive in Parliament and all that is needed is to pursue it properly,” Rai said.
He also said his party would take into consideration factors like time and the current situation and take a call on whether to participate in the municipality election or extend support to other parties. (EOIC)

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