Gangtok, 24 Oct:
In what in retrospect appears an obvious outcome, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha-Bharatiya Janata Party seat-sharing alliance today swept the by-elections, comfortably winning all three constituencies.
Sikkim Democratic Front president, former Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, while speaking to SummitTimes today, shared that he was expecting these results.
“Voters here tend to vote for the party already in office and also motivated by personal reasons and not the larger interest of the State. I was expecting this result, but we still contested the byelections and campaigned hard because that is my responsibility as a politician and something I owe Sikkim and its people,” he said.
The biggest victory belonged to SKM president, Chief Minister PS Tamang [Golay], who garnered more than 80% of the votes polled at Poklok-Kamrang, breaking into the SDF bastion with a commanding share of more than 10,000 of the around 12,000 votes cast there. Mr Chamling had won this constituency by around 3,000 votes in April. Mr Tamang beat his SDF rival, Moses Rai, by a margin of 8,953 votes.
With this, a constituency which has voted for SDF president Pawan Chamling for 35 years, including in the April elections, switched sides five months since he was voted into opposition.
Mr Chamling commented that the violent campaign of the SKM, the brazen threats issued by the Chief Minister and the pusillanimous manner in which the administration folded up left the people exposed and fearful and they voted the way they did.
“The SKM president received all the postal ballots. That is evidence of the kind of fear his party had whipped up,” he said. 226 votes were cast via postal ballot at Poklok Kamrang.
He, however, stressed that he does not hold any grudges against the voters, pointing out that they have been his family for nearly four decades now and had been scared into voting the way they did.
Expectedly, Mr Tamang looks at the mandate differently.
Speaking to media-persons shortly after his victory was announced, he said that the verdict was as much an endorsement of SKM’s performance in the barely five months it has been in government thus far and the expectations the people have from it.
While thanking people of the three constituencies for having supported the BJP-SKM seat-sharing alliance, he assured that his government will focus on changing the system for the better.
At Martam-Rumtek, where Sonam Tshering Venchungpa had unsuccessfully contested the April elections on an SKM ticket, registered a convincing victory in the by-elections wearing BJP colours. He had joined the BJP the day the seat-sharing arrangement had been announced. His 8,204 votes left SDF’s Nuk Tshering Bhutia trailing way behind with 2,054 votes. SDF had won this constituency by barely 70 votes in April.
The presence of a former MLA in Dr Mechung Bhutia or candidates of some standing from other parties and independents in the race did not dent BJP’s prospects, and SKM and Mr Venchungpa served BJP its first electoral victory, at any level, in Sikkim.
Gangtok, which had posted the lowest voter turn-out for the by-elections at 52%, gave BJP its second elected MLA in Sikkim when the 2,492 of the 6,152 votes who exercised their ballot on 21 Oct did so in favour of BJP’s YT Lepcha.
Interestingly, in Gangtok, SDF was pushed to third place with Sikkim Nationalist People’s Party’s Delay Namgyal Barfungpa coming second with 1,494 votes. SDF’s Rinzing Ongmu Bhutia came third with 872 votes.
The low turnout in Gangtok was always expected to make the contest close and the number of candidates expected to work in BJP’s favour. This proved true when BJP won here with barely 40% of the votes. The remaining 60% votes were spread out among the five other contenders.
Where slightly less than 2,500 voters chose BJP, 3,525 of the voters had other preferences.
With the latest results, SKM now has 19 MLAs in the Assembly, BJP has 12 and SDF one.