Mamata withdraws Trinamool candidates from GTA polls

July 21st, 2012 - 5:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, July 21 (IANS) Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday pulled out all Trinamool Congress candidates from the July 29 polls to the Darjeeling Hill governing panel, a move that paves the way for the main hill party, the GJM, to win all the 45 seats uncontested.

The announcement came soon after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) heaped lavish praise on her, saying Darjeeling and West Bengal will remain together under her stewardship.

July 12 was the last date for withdrawal of candidature from the polls to the new Darjeeling Hills development agency, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), and Banerjee’s belated pull out leaves the GJM - the principal party in the hills - with all 45 seats uncontested.

“The GJM has already won a majority by winning 28 seats uncontested. In the larger political interest, all our 17 candidates will withdraw their nominations. We are doing this out of our love for the people of the hills, though the last date of withdrawal is already gone,” Banerjee said.

With nominees of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Independents already opting out, the July 29 polls have now become a mere formality.

“We do not want any confrontation with the GJM. We will go to Darjeeling Aug 4 for the swearing-in ceremony,” said Banerjee, addressing a mammoth Trinamool Congress rally here.

Meanwhile, GJM spokesman and state lawmaker Harka Bahadur Chhetri exuded confidence of the Darjeeling Hills staying with Bengal so long as Banerjee was at the helm of affairs in the state.

“We have this belief now that so long as Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress is there, you can be assured that Darjeeling Hills and you (Bengal) will be together. We will walk together, work together and reach our destination together,” said Chhetri. His GJM party has been leading the movement for creation of a separate Gorkhaland state out of the hills in northern West Bengal for the past four years.

Chhetri showered lavish praise on Banerjee and credited her with inspiring the people of Bengal.

“One single lady, single handedly, has with her accessibility, simplicity and will to work for the people, has been able to inspire spirit in the people of Bengal,” said Chhetri.

He accused the erstwhile Left Front government of neglecting the Darjeeling Hills and praised Banerjee for being with the people of the hills during times of need.

“Forget about the chief minister, no Left Front minister bothered to visit Darjeeling, but our didi (Banerjee) has visited Darjeeling eight times since last year. She has always been there when the people needed her. She went there after the earthquake last year, as also after a bridge collapsed,” said Chhetri.

The long-standing agitation on the demand for forming a separate state out of the northern West Bengal hills has led to loss of many lives over the past two decades, besides hitting hard the region’s economic mainstays of tea, timber and tourism.

On July 18 last year, a tripartite agreement was signed between the GJM, and 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.

The elections to the 45 GTA seats are scheduled for July 29.

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