It’s SDF vrs SKM-BJP combine for by-elections

Gangtok, 28 Sept:

Sikkim Democratic Front has emerged as the only party in the State willing to take on the BJP in an election.The much-awaited by-elections will now be a contest between SDF and the SKM-BJP combine with the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha today stepping away from two of the three constituencies going for by-elections and announcing that it will be backing the saffron party there.

What is more, SKM has also released a candidate to the BJP camp in Sonam Venchungpa who had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 assembly elections on an SKM ticket.

Neither an alliance for by-elections, nor giving BJP a candidate is new for the SKM which had done the same in the by-polls for Yangyang-Rangang in the last term when it not only backed BJP but also “loaned” it a candidate in BikashBasnet, the current confidential secretary to Chief Minister PS Tamang [Golay].

With this, all speculations about the nature of the contest have been laid to rest. What remains to be seen is how keenly the by-election is contested and what level of support BJP receives from SKM on the campaign trail.

There is, however, a new speculation in air- this one regarding what convinced SKM to step down from two constituencies – both in which SKM is strong, having won one and narrowly lost the other - in favour of BJP. The constituency SKM has retained in this alliance is Poklok-Kamrang, the one seat in Sikkim where SDF can still be considered the strongest given that it is the SDF president’s traditional constituency.

The official explanations notwithstanding, Monday, the last day to file nomination papers will present answers to this mystery as well.

Given that MrVenchungpa officially joined BJP today, it is clear that he will receive the ticket for Martam-Rumtek, and while there has been some chatter about the BJP candidate for Gangtok, this will be officially announced only later.

As for SKM, it has not yet announced its candidate for Poklok-Kamrang and all eyes are on this constituency and whether any surprises come there.

SDF announced all its candidates today and will be fielding former MLA and Minister in previous SDF governments, Rinzing Ongmu, from Gangtok, Nuk Tshering Bhutia, popularly known as Melli Sonam, from Martam-Rumtek and Moses Rai from Poklok Kamrang.

SDF’s parliamentary board zeroed in on these candidates at a meeting on 26 September and the same was endorsed by the party president.

Meanwhile, addressing a joint press conference here today, SKM and BJP leaders announced the alliance and their 2:1 in favour of BJP seat-sharing arrangement.

SKM Working President, Mohan Prasad Subba who is also SKM party Parliamentary Board member told media-persons that the two parties have agreed on a 5-point agenda for the alliance - early seat reservation for Limboos and Tamangs, Scheduled Tribe status for the 11 left-out Sikkimese Nepali communities, tax exemption for old settlers and permission for the 17th Karmapa OgyenTrinleyDorje to visit Rumtek Monastery.

BJP’sSikkim in-charge, NitinNabin,in turn assured that the Central Government will not dilute the special Constitutional provisionsfor Sikkim as enshrined under Article 371F at any cost.

He added that BJP will go to the by-polls under the leadership of the SKM president, Chief Minister PS Tamang[Golay], and that he will remain the Chief Minister.

Although this is only a poll alliance for now, he hinted that the BJP could also join the Government if SKM wants it to be part of the government.

SKM spokesperson,the CM’s political secretary, Jacob Kaling,insisted that the alliance was not a compromise forced by political exigencies but one taken keeping in mind the long-pending demands of the State and in Sikkim’s interest.