No GTA chief due to GJM boycott

A new Gorkhaland Territorial Administration chief could not be elected on Wednesday because the GJM leaders stuck to their guns and boycotted the crucial meeting which was convened for this purpose. On Tuesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had in Kalimpong made a fervent appeal to the GJM to elect a new chief executive.
However, only two GTA members — chairman Pradip Pradhan and his deputy Lopsang Yolmo — attended the meeting pouring cold waters on Ms Banerjee’s eagerness to revive the autonomous hills body.
After the Centre gave its nod to the Telengana state, GTA chief Bimal Gurung resigned from his post on July 30 and launched a massive agitation for Gorkhaland. There had been prolonged bandhs in the hills since then. The state government and GJM had been on a collision course. Ms Banerjee was keen on an immediate election of Mr Gurung’s successor so that the stalled development projects could be restarted in the hills. However, the GJM leadership is bent on thwarting her plans.
Belying Ms Banerjee’s hopes, the GTA councillors skipped the meeting on Wednesday and thus the standoff over the election of the chief executive remained unresolved. “GTA is not our agenda now. We want release of our arrested members first. And our movement for Gorkhaland will continue,” Mr Gurung said. The GJM leadership pointed out that over 850 of their leaders and workers, including 10 GTA members, were in jail. “Unless they are released first we will not attend any GTA meeting,” he added.
Besides the GTA chairman and deputy chairman, principal secretary R.D. Meena was also present in the meeting which could not be held. “We have sent a report on today’s development. Now, it is the administration which will take the next step,” he added.
The GTA has 45 elected members from GJM and five nominated members. After Mr Gurung resigned as chief executive, the GTA became defunct. Ms Banerjee had on Tuesday lamented that the development work in the hills had come to a standstill due to this and `300 crores was lying unused.
She ruled out division of Bengal.
On Wednesday, Mr Gurung replied to her by posting his message on Facebook.
“Statehood is about our identity, about our right to self-determination. Just as Mamata Banerjee says she is from Bengal, we too want to say we are from Gorkhaland. It is unconstitutional for Mamata Banerjee to say Bengal cannot be divided,” he said.
Meanwhile, Trinamul Congress MP Mukul Roy claimed in Siliguri that the people of the hills were getting increasingly disenchanted with Mr Gurung’s politics of bandhs.
However, the shutdown continued to paralyse normal life in the hills. Ms Banerjee, Mr Roy and other government officials returned to Kolkata in the afternoon.

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