Gangtok: Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling is seeking a record sixth term in office in the upcoming assembly elections that will largely see a three-way fight between his Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) led by PS Golay and the Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) of former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia. The two national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, are too in the fray but they are essentially also-rans in this strategic border state that abuts Tibet (China), Nepal and Bhutan.
Although the ruling SDF was with the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance after the last election, before this election, they opted to go it alone. Sikkim’s 423,325 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise on April 11 to elect 32 members of the state Assembly and the lone Lok Sabha member. Chief Minister since 1994, Chamling, 68, has surpassed the record held by former Chief Minister of West Bengal, the late Jyoti Basu, who was Chief Minister for 23 years.
Chamling has been known for his pro-poor policies. The number of people living below the poverty line in Sikkim has been reduced from 1.7 lakh in 2004-05 to 51,000 in 2011-12 which means the proportion of the poor in Sikkim remains well below the national average.
With women constituting 47 per cent of the population, their equity has ben increasingly recognised. According to a report by American think-tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Nathan Associates, Sikkim is the state with best working conditions for women in India.
Talking to IANS, SDF's Prem Das Rai, the sitting Lok Sabha member from the state, said: "Sikkim is what it is today because of 25 years of continued good governance by Pawan Chamling. He has given a call to make the party pro-poor party that not only works for the development of the state but also looks seriously at the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate change and women's empowerment." “The only mantra Golay (a former SF minister) is banking upon even in this election is ‘parivartan’. The people of Sikkim will not give him the mandate because change for change itself does not cut ice with people.” The opposition parties, however, claim that Chamling is facing “huge anti-incumbency”. Chamling is contesting from two seats – Poklok-Kamrang and Namchi Singhithang, while Bhutia is in fray from Gangtok and Tumen Lingi seats. The HSP in its manifesto has promised a Universal Basic Income and jobs. (IANS)
Also read: Sikkim news