GJM faces heat from rival parties for strong-arm tactics

Indo Asian News Service

Darjeeling, July 7 (IANS) Candidates of the CPI-M, Trinamool Congress and Independents Saturday alleged they were forcibly prevented by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) from filing nominations for the July 29 polls of the proposed new development body in West Bengal's troubled Darjeeling district.

One person was arrested and three cases were opened following the complaints, police said.

The last date for entering the fray for the 45 seats of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in the state's northern hills in July 9.

Former state minister and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Ashok Bhattacharya accused the GJM of beating up his party leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Saman Pathak in Kuseong subdivision when he was accompanying his party candidates to file their papers.

"Saman Pathak was severely beaten up. As a result, four of our nominees could not file their papers. We have called a meeting to decide whether we will participate further in the polls," an agitated Bhattacharya said.

In Mirik, Trinamool Congress leader Rajen Mukhia and some other party candidates were allegedly obstructed by GJM members. "The other party candidates were unable to file their nominations. But I have filed," Mukhia said.

Independent candidate I.N. Pradhan alleged he was also not allowed to file his nominations while his election agent got beaten up by GJM activists.

However, GJM spokesman and state lawmaker Harka Bahadur Chhetri denied the charges. "Our party is in a position to win all the 45 seats without even campaigning. Why should we try to prevent others from contesting? As for CPI-M, there are factional feuds in that party."

Kurseong subdivisional police officer Nima Bhutia said: "One person has been arrested. We have started three cases. The situation is under control."

Meanwhile, five parties including the All India Gorkha League and Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists have decided to boycott the polls because of the poor law and order and lack of a democratic atmosphere.

The three picturesque Darjeeling hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseyong and Kalimpong have been on the boil for nearly three decades due to anti-government protests over the Gorkhaland demand. The hills had witnessed killings, police crackdowns and long shutdowns which severely impacted the hills' economic mainstays - tea, timber and tourism.

On July 18 last year, a tripartite agreement was signed between the GJM, the state and central governments for setting up a new autonomous, elected GTA, a hill council armed with more powers than its predecessor the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) formed in the late 1980s.