The government deferred the passage of two Constitution amendment bills for granting autonomous status to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) and expressed its readiness to the Opposition’s demand to refer them to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
The decision came a day after Leader of Opposition L K Advani conveyed to the government as well as to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that the BJP was opposed to the Parliament passing the bills in a hurry and wanted them to be referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. Home Minister Shivraj Patil told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that “There have been suggestions from some members as also political parties that these bills be referred to a Standing Committee or a Joint Select Committee and I shall have no objection to it. “ The government pressed for an early passage because of fears that any delay might lead to deterioration in the law and order situation in Darjeeling, he added. In response, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said, since there is reconciliation “I do not stand in the way” of deferring their consideration. The Sixth Schedule to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, and the Constitution (107th Amendment) Bill, 2007 seek to give powers to the Gorkha Hill Council in matters of land, revenue and forests.
The government preferred not to risk a defeat of the bills — as Constitution amendment bills — because they would need 50 per cent of the members of the House to be present and two-thirds of them to vote for a smooth passage.
Just before Patil made known the government’s decision to defer the bills, the House saw Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Dasmunsi consulting CPI(M) members while CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta had a word with BJP Deputy Leader V K Malhotra. Dasmunsi said he stood by what the Home Minister has said but added that the ruling UPA had the requisite support to pass the bills.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said though the bills had been deferred, major opposition parties in Parliament, including BJP, were not opposed to them.