By bappaditya paul
Faced with the Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha’s (GJMM) threat of a renewed Gorkhaland agitation, the state government, headed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, seems to have expedited the process of forming an autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
The government has extended the term, by six months, of the high-powered committee headed by retired Justice Mr Shyamal Sen entrusted to finalise the GTA territory and also the President’s assent is awaited for the GTA Bill.
The draft GTA Election Rules, containing 50-odd pages, has been prepared by the state home department. It has drawn provisions from the Representation of the People Act, 1951; Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 and the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (Election) Rules, 1988.
The draft is expected to be finalised in a week or so by a committee on GTA headed by state home secretary GD Gautama. It will then be sent to the state law department for clearance.
The GTA Bill was passed in the state Assembly on 2 September 2011 and was sent for the President’s approval in December.
According to sources in the state home department, the proposed GTA Election Rules have certain special features that were not part of the DGHC (Election) Rules.
“In the DGHC (Election) Rules there was provision for holding elections on ballot papers only. In the proposed GTA’s rules we have added the option of EVMs. Since the GTA will be a more powerful autonomous administrative body, we have incorporated clauses on Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and other measures to curb corrupt practices during elections,” said a senior official.
Once finalised, the GTA Election Rules will govern the direct elections for the 45 proposed constituencies of the GTA Sabha. The Sabha will also have five members nominated by the state government. These 50 members in turn will elect a chairperson from amongst themselves.
It is however, not yet clear if the GTA elections will be conducted by the State Election Commission (SEC) or the government would appoint a special election officer as was the case with the DGHC.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 4 February 2012.)