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'BJP is doing in Sikkim what it did in Arunachal'

August 16, 2019 08:13 IST

'We have a situation where the BJP, with less than 2 per cent vote share, has 10 MLAs.'
'There are 3 by-elections coming and if the BJP wins, their tally will rise to 13.'
'If they are able to make some arrangement, a BJP government is likely to be formed in Sikkim.'

IMAGE: 10 Sikkim Democratic Front MLAs join the BJP in the presence of the party's national general secretary Ram Madhav in New Delhi, on August 13, 2019. Photograph: PTI Photo

Amidst the developments in Kashmir hogging the headlines, the major political upheaval in Sikkim has gone almost unnoticed.

On Tuesday, August 13, 10 MLAs out of 13 of the Sikkim Democratic Front, the main opposition party in Sikkim, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Thus, the BJP became the main opposition party in Sikkim overnight -- although it did not win a single seat in the assembly elections in April this year.

The Sikkim assembly has 32 members. The ruling party, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha won 17 seats in the April elections while the SDF bagged the remaining 15. However, three legislators (one from SKM and two from SDF) resigned their seats after being elected from two constituencies.

 

After 10 MLAs from the SDF joined the BJP on Tuesday, two more joined the ruling SKM, leaving the SDF with just one MLA. 

The SKM now has 18 MLAs, the SDF one, and the BJP 10. The half-way mark in the reduced house is 15.

Prem Das Rai, former SDF member of Parliament from Sikkim, spoke to Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf about the fast-paced political developments in the state.

Sikkim is the only Northeastern state where the BJP doesn't have a share in power. All other states are ruled by the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), of which it is part. Now it looks like they are very close to power in Sikkim too?

It is a challenging time for the SDF. People of Sikkim gave a fractured mandated in the 2019 assembly elections. It was 50:50. It was a foregone conclusion that there will be a third party (involved).

And what the BJP did in Arunachal Pradesh, they are doing in Sikkim. If you want to draw a parallel, what is happening in Sikkim has already happened in Arunachal Pradesh.

You mean how Pema Khandu broke away from the Congress and then merged his party with the BJP in Arunachal Pradesh and is now ruling as BJP chief minister?

We have a situation in Sikkim now where the BJP with less than 2 per cent vote share has 10 MLAs. There are three by-elections coming and if the BJP wins (all of them) their tally will rise to 13.

If they are able to make some arrangement with a few more MLAs, a BJP government is likely to be formed in Sikkim.

History will be repeated, be it Goa where they did not have a majority or even in Arunachal Pradesh, as you said.

Yes. If you look at the statements coming out from the BJP, they will say it is about the state and they need a stable government and so on. They will say such things.

But doesn't it work in the interest of Sikkim if the Centre and state are ruled by the same party?

I don't think so. Sikkim has done remarkably well for 25 years under Mr (Pawan) Chamling. So this feeling of Centre and state ruled by the same party does not hold true.

Right now if you see the reactions coming in, some are positive and some negative on the Centre and state being ruled by the same party.

How are the people of Sikkim seeing this development?

Some people have welcomed it and some have rejected it.

Generally in Sikkim, people vote for a local party. Therefore, there is some kind of disgust too.

It is not that the SDF is the first party to jump on to the BJP bandwagon. The ruling party of Sikkim (SKM) also wanted to join the BJP and in fact there was supposed to be a pre-poll alliance, but that did not happen.

But with less than 2 per cent of votes, the BJP forming the government is like going against the will of the people.

Yes. The mandate speaks for itself. The people of Sikkim voted for change but not this kind of change.

One wonders how SKM supremo Prem Singh Tamang could form the government when he was convicted for corruption in July 2018?

This was an old case in which he was alleged to have misappropriated in department of animal husbandry.

He pocketed the money and that led to a loss to exchequer. A case was filed by the then opposition party member Nar Bahadur Bhandari. He was the chief minister before Mr Chamling.

This particular case went from court to court and finally the high court of Sikkim upheld the judgment by local court. The case then went to the Supreme court and that too upheld the ruling. And then Golay went to jail in 2017.

So how could he continue as chief minister after being convicted, as the rules say that a convicted person has to be debarred for six years, isn't it?

Yes, that is the law. (As per the People’s Representation Act, 1951, a person convicted under Prevention of Corruption Act cannot contest an election for six years, which meant Golay should have to be away from politics till 2024).

That is the real (problem). We have got a case on this in the Supreme Court.

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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