KOLKATA/DARJEELING: The West Bengal government today announced constitution of panel headed by a rebel GJM leader to oversee the administration of Darjeeling hills, in ferment over the demand for Gorkhaland, an action rejected as "mockery" of people's aspirations by the party spearheading the agitation.
Seeking to strike a body blow to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is at the forefront of the agitation for carving out a state of Gorkhaland from West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today appointed Binay Tamang, a rebel GJM leader, the chairman of the Board of Administrators (BoA).
The announcement, apparently aimed at capitalising on the divisions in the GJM, drew a sharp reaction from the party which insisted that a resolution to the festering issue lay in tripartite talks between the Centre, the state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
"Today, we have taken an important decision to form a nine-member board of administrators. The BoA will enjoy the same powers as members of the GTA ," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata.
Instead of the chief executive of the GTA, the BoA would have a chairman, vice chairman and other members, she added.
Rebel GJM members Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa were made the chairman and vice chairman of the board respectively.
Six other members belonged to organisations supporting the Gorkhaland cause and the GJM-led agitation.
Other members of the panel are: Man Ghisingh of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), L B Rai (Mirik), Amar Singh Rai (Darjeeling, GJM MLA), Anu Chhetri, Jaitun Khatun and Sanchabir Subba, besides the GTA principal secretary, Banerjee said.
The panel, she said, would replace the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). The GTA was earlier controlled by the GJM.
The state government had appointed an IAS officer as administrator of the GTA under the relevant law after its members resigned en masse protesting against non-creation of Gorkhaland.
She said the new administration would continue to oversee the development work in the hill areas till the time the situation became conducive to holding elections to the GTA.
"The BoA has been formed because the situation is not conducive to holding elections to the GTA. It will function till the elections to the GTA are held as soon as the situation in the hills improves. We want the elections to the GTA to be held as quickly as possibly," Banerjee said.
Soon after the announcement by Mamata, GJM remonstrated against Tamang and Thapa's inclusion in the administrative panel as they had been expelled by their own party.
"Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa have been expelled from the party. The proposal to form a board of administrators was not discussed in our party. We are not in its favour.
"We had unanimously rejected the idea of the GTA, so what is the use of administrators? We feel the solution to the crisis in the hills lies in tripartite talks on the issue of Gorkhaland," GJM vice president Kalyan Dewan said in Darjeeling.
Though the situation in Darjeeling hills remained tense, no violence was reported from anywhere today, the 98th day of the shutdown called by a conglomeration of pro-Gorkhaland parties led by the GJM.