SDF’s first list of 18 has 10 new faces - First list already has one more female candidate than last

Gangtok, 15 Mar:

Sikkim Democratic Front today released its first list Assembly election candidates. Of the 18 names announced for constituencies spread across the four districts, there 10 new faces with nine sitting MLAs losing their existing constituencies. The first list of 18 also has four female candidates, already one more than the three female candidates the party had fielded in the 2014.

SDF party president, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, will be contesting from two constituencies - Namchi-Singithang and Poklok Kamrang, both in South Sikkim. It may be recalled that he had contested from these two constituencies in 2009 as well and won from both. Legislative Assembly Speaker, KN Rai, was elected from Poklok-Kamrang in 2014.

Among the MLAs who have retained their candidatures from their respective constituencies in this first list are: NK Subba from Maneybong-Dentam, KS Lepcha from Rinchenpong, GM Gurung from Temi-Namphing, Ugen T Gyatso Bhutia from Tumin-Lingee, DT Lepcha from Gnathang-Machong and Pintso Chopel Lepcha from Gangtok.

The ruling party has given four new women candidates in Dechen Ongmu Bhutia who will be contesting on an SDF ticket from Yuksom-Tashiding, Dhan Kumari Kami from Salghari-Zoom, Pharwanti Tamang from Melli and Raj Kumari Thapa from Rangang-Yangyang.

The other new faces in the list LM Sharma from Gyalshing-Bermiok, Pem Norbu Sherpa from Daramdin, Birjan Tamang from Namthang-Rateypani, former MLA Em Prasad Sharma from Namcheybong, GT Dhungel from Upper Tadong and Pintso Namgyal Lepcha from Dzongu.

As the list reveals, of the eight constituencies in West Sikkim, SDF has declared candidates for six, with candidates still awaited for Soreng-Chakung and Yangthang constituencies. Except Ralong constituency in South Sikkim, the party has announced candidates for all the eight constituencies there. Power Minister DD Bhutia is the sitting MLA from Ralong.

Of the three constituencies in North Sikkim, a candidate has been announced only for Dzongu, where the sitting MLA has apparently been rested for a new face.

East Sikkim, which has the most number of constituencies, twelve, candidates have been announced only for four. This is also the district where eight of the ten MLAs of the Opposition SKM were elected in 2014. Save Gangtok, the remaining three constituencies for which candidates have been announced, were all won by SDF in 2014.

Three Ministers and the Deputy Speaker - Sher Bahadur Subedi, Arjun Kumar Ghatani, Tulsi Devi Rai and Sonam Gyatso Lepcha – do not figure in the first list with their existing constituencies having gone to other candidates.

The list was officially released at a press conference here at SDF Bhawan this afternoon although details were already circulating in social media since much earlier in the day.

SDF spokesperson, Lok Sabha MP PD Rai, informed that the second and final list will be announced before 18 March, Monday.

Responding to media queries, SDF spokesperson Bhim Dahal mentioned that the election campaign of the party was already underway on a war-footing and now with the first set of candidates announced, will pick up even more vigorously.

He informed that the party president was starting a unique door-to-door election campaign starting from Lall Bazaar in Gangtok to Namchi in South on Saturday morning.

On the release of the election manifesto of the party, PD Rai informed that the manifesto will be released shortly and announced that it will be a “historic” document in that it will set the course to take Sikkim to the next level in terms of development and addressing the aspirations of the youth.

SDF spokesperson, KT Gyaltsen, also commented today that there was no apparent political wave in favor of the opposition even in East Sikkim this time and scoffed that the confusion over the SKM-BJP alliance was representative of the weakness of SKM leadership.

When asked to comment on the first list of Hamro Sikkim Party which was also released today, Mr Dahal scoffed that HSP did not even have 32 members hence might not be able to even field 32 candidates.