A hectic Monday awaits Returning Officers

Upwards of 180 nomination papers expected to be filed on last day

Gangtok, 22 Mar:

Placing the simultaneous elections in Sikkim in the first phase of polling gave the State barely a month of preparation and campaigning time. Further, holidays eating into days allowed for submission of nomination papers has led to a situation where Monday, 25 March, the last date for filing of nomination papers, is setting up to be a hectic day for the Returning Officers with upwards of 180 nomination papers expected to be filed on the day.

So far, only 15 Sikkim Democratic Front candidates, four Hamro Sikkim Party candidates and one Sikkim National People’s Party candidate have filed nomination papers for the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Sikkim Krantikari Morcha is yet to file any nominations.

The last date for filing nominations, as mentioned, is 25 March and with 23-24 being Government holidays, all remaining nominations will have to be filed on Monday.

As things stand, apart from SDF and SKM, HSP, BJP, Congress and possibly Sikkim Progressive Alliance are expected to contest from all the 32 Assembly constituencies and field candidates for the Lok Sabha as well. And then there will be the independent candidates as well.

Even on a rough estimate upwards of 190 Assembly election candidates can be expected this election cycle and there will definitely be a handful of Lok Sabha aspirants as well. By comparison, there were 121 Assembly election candidates in 2014.

With only 20 candidates having submitted nomination papers thus far, the four DC, who are also the Returning Officers, can expect a crowd of upwards of 180 candidates trooping to the District Administrative Centres with their nomination papers. The East DAC will have the strongest rush since it has the highest number of Assembly constituencies [12].

Expect a lot of nervous energy and frayed nerves at the DC offices on Monday.

Given what is at stake, the candidates and officers can be expected to stretch the hours longer and get the documents submitted eventually, but this last-minuteness will definitely manifest as tardy preparation and campaigning.

With election scheduled for 11 April, the parties have only 15 days at hand for campaigning. The logistics of organising public meetings take time, and with the model code of conduct expected to be enforced even more strictly and paper work for earmarked public meeting venues more specific this time, campaign planning will be stressful exercise. It will be interesting to see if parties manage anything substantially more elaborate than door-to-door campaigning.

And while candidates and the party machineries are directed to campaigning, one wonders when the party manifestos will be released, circulated and read.