Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has promised to make every Sikkimese a 'crorepati' if he or she votes for his Sikkim Democratic Front in the April 12 Lok Sabha election, inviting criticism from his opponents.
"We will work diligently in the coming days to make every Sikkimese a crorepati in our future role," claims the manifesto of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front. At Rs 1,42,625 in 2012-13, the per capita income of the land-locked Himalayan state is among the highest in the country and way ahead of the national average.
SDF leaders claim that if voted to power for the fifth time in a row, the government will now aim to take the per capita income to a staggering Rs one crore. "It is because of our continuous development work that the state has done well economically. Now we have a vision to make Sikkim financially secure and independent in the near future," SDF spokesperson Bhim Dahal told PTI.
Political opponents, however, say that the 'crorepati' dream is nothing less than utopian. "Their party leaders have become crorepatis as they are neck-deep in corruption. The government did not allow the Central Bureau of Investigation to enquire against Chamling's assets 2-3 years ago when there was a complaint against him," Sikkim Krantikari Morcha general secretary Jacob Khaling alleged.
He pointed out that since the outgoing Assembly has no opposition member, there was no check and balance in the functioning of the government. The SDF had won all 32 assembly seats in the last election.
Former Sikkim Chief Minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari also laughs at the 'crorepati' dream.
"It is funny that they are claiming such things. Chamling is so much into corruption that once he loses power he will go to jail. He has stopped the CBI from enquiring against him. After he is out of power, nothing will stop the CBI from enquiring into his unaccounted assets," Bhandari charged.
SDF leaders say when the party led by Chamling came to power in 1994, the per capita income of Sikkim was a mere Rs 9, 000. Since then the state government has improved agro-production, horticulture, floriculture and established new industries and eco-tourism initiatives to increase revenue generation.
By going organic, agriculture and horticulture production has increased and farmers get better prices. With good road connectivity, many tourists spots have come up in the state giving locals the opportunity to earn, particularly through homestays.
According to official figures, tourism now accounts for almost eigth per cent of the state gross domestic product. Sikkim’s industrial base comprises fruit processing, brewing and distilling and pharma companies. Besides it has approved of around 25 hydropower projects to generate additional revenue.
Still dependent on central transfers, Sikkim has relatively high level of capital expenditure which has sometimes resulted in very large fiscal deficits. According to budget estimates for 2012-13, the state’s fiscal deficit stood at 3.5 per cent.