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By Our Newsmen

Kolkata / Siliguri, 20 September: IN a significant move, Bengal government today appointed a Board of Administrators with Bimal Gurung’s rival Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang at the helm to run the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in Darjeeling Hills.

The move comes nearly three months since Gurung and all the other GTA members, including Tamang, had resigned to fight for a Gorkhaland state and in turn turned GTA into a defunct body.

But the move has evoked a negative reaction from almost all other political parties from the Hills, including the Gorkha National Liberation Front, whose president Mann Ghisingh has been made a member of the Board. The parties believe that the state government was trying to divert the Gorkhaland by revitalising GTA.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who addressed a news conference at state secretariat Nabanna in Howrah this afternoon, said that the Board was being put in place as an interim arrangement until a fresh election was held for GTA.

GTA election was due in last month, but could not be held because of the on-going unrest in Darjeeling Hills. Going by section 13(1) of GTA Act, the Board of Administrators formed by the state can be in power for six months at a stretch and a fresh election will have be held within this period.

“In exercise of the power vested on the government under section 65 (b) of GTA Act, 2011, we are forming a nine-member Board of Administrators to run GTA. This is because we believe that GTA cannot be run effectively by only a government official and since the administrators being appointed are from the Hills, it will make GTA’s functioning smooth and sped up the pace of work,” she said.

The CM added that Binay Tamang will be the chairman of the Board, and his aide Anit Thapa vice-chairman. The members will be Gorkha National Liberation Front president Mann Ghisingh, Darjeeling MLA Amar Singh Rai, GJM leaders LB Rai, Sanchabir Subba, H Chhetri, J Khatun, and the principal secretary of GTA.

Section 65 (b) of GTA Act reads: “all powers, functions and duties of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Sabha and Executive Sabha shall be exercised, discharged and performed by such Sabha or authorities or such person or persons as may be appointed by the government in this behalf,” once the government had dissolved the GTA Sabha under section 64 of the same Act.

In the present case, the 23 June en masse resignation by Gurung and all other GTA members under section 38(b) of GTA Act, made the dissolution an east task for the government.

Bimal Gurung camp of GJM could not be contacted for a reaction as party general secretary Roshan Giri’s phone is switched off since he met the Union home minister in New Delhi last evening.

GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba has condemned the move saying that the party will not accept the revival of GTA come what may. “Mann Ghisingh is not a Trinamool member that the CM can made him a member of the Board at her whims,” Zimba said claiming that Ghishing was not consulted by the government before announcing his name.

Harka Bahadur Chhetri of Jan Andolan Party said that in the past two bipartite meets, he had demanded that GTA Act should be repealed as the body has lost people’s mandate.

 “It appears that the government’s plan is to convene a tripartite of GTA and not on Gorkhaland that we all have been demanding. If Tamang and others are committed to Gorkhaland agitation, they should reject the Board formed by the CM,” he said. Gorkha Rajya Nirman Morcha, a smaller party in the Hills, has also rejected the move.

In Siliguri, Mamata Banerjee’s arch rival and CPI-M MLA Asok Bhattacharya echoed the hill parties. “Tamang has been rewarded by the CM for ditching his own party. This is sort of a Puja gift to him and his aides,” he said, although he maintained that CPI-M was against the Gorkhaland demand.