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|October 1, 1999||
The Rediff Election Specials
In Sikkim's Sangha constituency, the Buddhist clergy is in the fray
Come October 3 and some 3,278 members of the Buddhist clergy in Sikkim, including 34 Anis (nuns), will take an unusual break from the routine ritualistic chanting of prayers and turning of the prayer wheels, to vote and elect their own representative to the 32-member Batale assembly in Sikkim.
The monastic Sangha constituency of this erstwhile Buddhist Himalayan kingdom has no geographical boundary, it is the only one of its kind in the country reserved for the monastic community (Sangha). It comprises an electoral college of 3,244 Lamas (monks) and 34 Anis from the state's 56 recognised monasteries, including the renowned Rumtek and Pamayanyantse.
The state has 104 monasteries. The Sangha seat was constituted by the erstwhile Sikkim ruler, the Chogyal, in 1955 when the electoral process was introduced in the otherwise feudal system of governance.
The Sangha electorate, spread over the four mountain districts of the state, are provided with special ballot papers which differ in colour to the general ballots. Monastic voters will be given a 'sky-blue' paper throughout the state while a 'general' voter will be provided with green (parliamentary) and pink (assembly) ballots.
To preserve the distinct identity of the Sangha, only registered monks/nuns can contest the seat. Political parties put up their nominees from among the clergy.
The Congress has re-nominated Namkha Gyaltsen Lama who won the seat three times in a row, twice on the Sikkim Sangram Parishad ticket and once on the Congress ticket. While the Opposition SSP nominated Dorjee Dadul Lama for the seat, the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front has not fielded any official candidate. It is supporting an independent Palden Lama, who had lost the seat on the SDF ticket in 1994 in a triangular contest.
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