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Ghising to be caretaker?

By Our Special Correspondent

KOLKATA, MARCH 13. A decision on who will be appointed the caretaker-administrator in the Darjeeling hills will be taken at a meeting with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, either on March 19 or 20, the West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said.

Mr. Bhattacharjee remained non-committal about whether Subash Ghising, chairman of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Autonomous Council (DGHAC), will be asked to take the post.

At a meeting of the central committee of his party — the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) — in Darjeeling yesterday, Mr. Ghising withdrew his call for a three-day bandh in the hills saying that he was "satisfied" that the West Bengal Government was considering his demands. One of his party's demands is that he be appointed caretaker of the DGHAC after its term expires on March 26 till the next elections are held.

The Chief Minister, who returned to the city after a two-day visit to north Bengal, said in Siliguri earlier today that the elections to the council would be held within six months from the expiry of the present council's term. Till then, a caretaker-administrator would supervise administrative matters.

Bill to be introduced

A Bill will be introduced in the West Bengal Assembly tomorrow to amend the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Act to set up an interim arrangement in the hills and create the post of a caretaker-administrator till the next polls. The nomenclature of the DGHAC will also be changed with the term "autonomous" being dropped, as demanded by Mr. Ghising. The State Government has also agreed to extend the area of jurisdiction of the council by adding 13 mouzas to it in response to another of Mr. Ghising's demands.

The Chief Minister recently held a meeting with leaders of the Left Front and the Opposition, including the GNLF, where the proposed Bill was discussed.

The interim arrangement was necessary, he said, as elections could not be held on time last year. Mr. Ghising has been insisting that there can be no elections until the powers of the council are reviewed by both the Centre and the State Government.

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