The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), whose influence in the Darjeeling hills has been considerably marginalised ever since the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) became the major political force in the region four years ago, has decided not to participate in what it described as “fake” civic elections to the four hill municipalities on December 11, seven years after they were last held.

With this announcement in Jalpaiguri on Sunday, Subash Ghising, GNLF president and Chairman for nearly two decades of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), added that his party will not “participate” in the upcoming polls in protest against “the gross violation” of the memorandum of settlement in 2005 for Sixth Schedule status to the hills and the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Act 1988.

Referring to the memorandum of settlement for Sixth Schedule status to the region, Mr. Ghising said it had been earlier decided that the status would be granted to the hills “for the up-gradation of the DGHC and for its Constitutional guarantee”.

“The final agreement (for Sixth Schedule status) took place in New Delhi on December 6, 2005. As a result of it, the government of West Bengal transferred the municipalities and panchayats (in the hills) along with 45 departments to the DGHC for its up-gradation under the Sixth Schedule”, he said.

Whatever the validity of Mr. Ghising's argument in the changed context since the tripartite agreement was signed on July 18 between the Centre, the State government and the GJM to set up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was, the GJM is looking at a cake-walk victory in the civic elections given the GNLF's absence from the fray.