April 11, 2014

SIKKIM & LOK SABHA 2014


WILL CHAMLING CREATE HISTORY?


Having joined the Indian Union in 1975, Sikkim is the smallest Indian state in terms of population. Surrounded by Nepal in the West, China in the North and Bhutan in the East, it is going to both, the legislative assembly polls and the national polls simultaneously this April. The state elections are extremely crucial. In 2009, the ruling SDF had swept the state, winning all 32 seats, wiping all opposition. After being in power for a staggering 20 years, the incumbent CM Pawan Kumar Chamling today is on the verge of creating history. A victory here will more or less ensure that he breaks Jyoti Basu's record of being the longest serving CM in the history of the country. Meanwhile, there is a new challenger on the block. Prem Singh Tamaag, a former senior member of the Chamling cabinet has rebelled against Chamling and joined the SKM. It is expected that this new regional outfit will give a tough competition to the SDF in several seats. After all, even Chamling had come to power under similar circumstances way back in 1993. Of course, our focus, at least in this post is on the lone parliamentary seat in Sikkim. But there is no doubt that local issues are going to dictate how the people are going to vote in the Lok Sabha polls.

ISSUES

The performance of Chamling: This is the one big issue that is likely to dominate the polls in the state. In the last two decades, many will agree that Sikkim has become more peaceful, perhaps the most amongst the eight North-eastern states. In the early 1990s under the leadership of CM Bhandari, it had become infamous for its atrocities on media and all kinds of dissent. However, that seems to be a thing of the past now. The state is marching ahead on the path of development. Poverty figures are low, per capita income has grown and Chamling has also promised to make Sikkim the country's first debt-free state in the next few years. Another significant feature of his rule has been his focus on environment. Plastic is banned in the state and the SDF has adopted 'Sustainability' as its mantra, ahead of the 2014 polls. Now, how many parties in India do that?

At the same time, there are many who believe that the incumbent CM has become drunk with power. They accuse him of being autocratic. While the SDF will go to the polls talking about the achievements of their leader in last 20 years, the opposition is trying to highlight the failures of Chamling.

Ethnicity: The people of Sikkim belong to different ethnic groups, the major ones being the Nepalis, the Bhutias and the Lepchas. In the state assembly, 12 seats are reserved for the Bhutias and the Lepchas. Also, nearly 3000 Buddhist monks elect one member to the 'Sangha' seat which was created as a part of the agreement during the former Himalayan kingdom's merger into India. The SDF has promised to declare Sikkim a 'tribal state'. Another electoral issue is the Karmapa controversy. After the death of the sixteenth Karmapa in 1992, two different groups are fighting in the country's courts to place their candidates to the famed Rumtek Monastery near Gangtok.
CONTENDERS

(1) Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF): Formed in 1993, the SDF is perhaps the most successful political party in the history of the country, having been in power for a staggering 20 of the 21 years of its existence. Over the years, the outfit has seen a steady rise in its numbers in the state assembly while it has won the Lok Sabha seat five times in a row. CM Pawan Kumar Chamling will contest from two seats - Namchi-Singhithang and Rangang-Yangang. The party has retained its incumbent MP Prem Das Rai - the only MP with a degree from IIT and IIM for the parliamentary seat.

(2) Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM): The new outfit in state politics was formed last year by Bharati Sharma with the aim of bringing down the Chamling regime. It got a shot in the arm when Prem Singh Tamang 'Golay' left the SDF following his differences with the party leadership and joined it. Over the last few months, the SKM is gaining popularity amongst the masses. Moreover, even former CM Nar Bahadur Bhandari's Sikkim Sangram Parishad (SSP) has pledged its support to Golay. The party's candidates include Tamang (Namthang-Rateypani) and Sharma (Soreng-Chakung). The SKM has nominated Tek Nath Dhakal for the Lower house of the Parliament.

Others: The Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) have fielded their candidates for some of the assembly seats as well as the MP seat.

PAST PERFORMANCES

Chamling's SDF has been the most dominant player in the state politics since 1994. A look at the below chart shows how it has been improving its performance over the last 20 years, reaching its zenith in 2009 when it won all the seats in Sikkim. I doubt if this has happened ever in any other state in our country. Moreover, it has won the single Lok Sabha seats five times in a row. The SSP, which was in power before 1994 has lost much of its vote base. The INC too is only a marginal player.

Political Party
2009 LE
2009 SE
2004 LE
2004 SE
1999 LE
1999 SE
1998 LE
1996 LE
1994 SE
Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF)
1
32
1
31
1
24
1
1
21
Sikkim Sangram Parishad (SSP)
0
0
0
0
0
7
0
0
8
Others (INC/IND)
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
3

MY PREDICTIONS

I am putting my money on the SDF to win at least 20 seats in the state assembly as well as the lone parliamentary seat from here. However, there will certainly be some opposition in the state legislature.

Political Party
Expected Seats
1
Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF)
1
2
Others (INC/SSP/BJP)
0

WATCH OUT

(1) Breaking the Record: CPI(M) veteran Jyoti Basu held on to the reins in Bengal from 1977 to 2000, when he finally handed on the baton to Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. He currently holds the record for being the longest serving Chief Minister in Indian Political history. However, Pawan Kumar Chamling who has been in office since 1994 seems all set to break this feat if he manages to win a fourth re-election. In case, the SDF manages to cross the half way mark this polls, then the Sikkim CM has a great chance of entering history books three years down the line.

(2) Will history repeat itself? The Sikkim Sanghram Parishad (SSP) was once the most powerful party in the state. In fact, its supremo Nar Bahadur Bhandari was the CM of the state for nearly 14 years. His ultimate downfall came in 1994 after his rule became increasingly dictatorial. Moreover, he had also sacked a popular minister from his cabinet two years ago. That sacked minister was Chamling and his outfit - the SDF routed the SSG in the 94 polls. Twenty years down the line, it seems that the incumbent CM is now facing a tough challenge. Like Bahadur, many have accused him of being ‘autocratic’. Also, his former cabinet colleague and longtime critic Prem Singh Tamang has resigned and joined the SKM. Will Golay as he is popularly known as, be able to rally the anti-establishment votes, like Chamling did in 1994? This needs to be seen.

Other posts in this series:
(1) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)