Sikkim: SKM storms back to power in landslide win

The party, led by Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, won 31 out of the Assembly’s 32 seats.

Published : Jun 03, 2024 19:41 IST - 6 MINS READ

Incumbent Chief Minister and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha leader Prem Singh Tamang meets Governor Lakshman Prasad Acharya to stake claim to form the government in the State at the Raj Bhavan in Gangtok.

Incumbent Chief Minister and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha leader Prem Singh Tamang meets Governor Lakshman Prasad Acharya to stake claim to form the government in the State at the Raj Bhavan in Gangtok. | Photo Credit: PTI

Led by incumbent Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) on June 2 returned to power in the Himalayan state for a second consecutive term by a landslide victory, winning 31 seats in the 32-member Assembly.

The opposition Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), which ruled the State for 25 years in a row till 2019, could manage only one seat, while its president and former Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, who is Tamang’s mentor-turned-adversary, lost in the two seats he contested.

Tamang, however, won from two seats, and his party bagged 58.38 per cent of the votes polled. The SKM had won 17 seats in the 2019 Assembly election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed Tamang and the SKM for the victory. “Congratulations to SKM and CM @PSTamangGolay for their victory in the Sikkim Assembly Elections 2024. I look forward to working with the State Government to further the progress of Sikkim in the coming times,” Modi said in a post on X.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s post, Tamang thanked him. “We are committed to continuing our efforts towards the development and prosperity of Sikkim. We look forward to collaborating with you to achieve our shared goals for the betterment of our state. Your unwavering support has been a driving force for us, and we look forward to your continued guidance and blessings,” Tamang posted on X.

Modi also thanked all who voted for the BJP in the Sikkim Assembly election. The saffron party contested 31 seats but failed to win any of them. The party bagged 5.18 per cent of the total votes polled. “I also appreciate the efforts put in by our Karyakartas. Our Party will always be at the forefront of working towards Sikkim’s development and fulfilling people’s aspirations,” Modi said in a post.

Landslide win for SKM

After the landslide win, Tamang congratulated the party workers and the voters of Sikkim. “It is because of the love and trust of the people which we have managed to secure in the past five years in government. Besides, party cadres worked very hard. Now we have the next five years to give our 100 per cent for the people of Sikkim,” he said at a gathering in Paljor Stadium in Gangtok.

Sikkim BJP president Dilli Ram Thapa, a sitting MLA, lost to SKM nominee Kala Rai in the Upper Burtuk constituency by a margin of 2,968 votes.

Tamang won by over 7,000 votes in both Rhenock and Soreng-Chakung constituencies. “I also want to thank the opposition as it is because of them that our party became stronger and more organised,” said the president of the SKM which had won 17 seats in 2019. He claimed the SKM stood as a beacon of hope, lighting the way for a new dawn leading to golden and prosperous future. “This win is not just ours; it belongs to the youth, students, and every Sikkimese who dreams of a bright future for our children and a prosperous, inclusive society,” he said.

Like the BJP, the Congress also failed to open its account and secured a paltry vote share of 0.32 per cent which is even less than that of NOTA (0.99 per cent).

Tamang asked the party workers to maintain calm in the aftermath of the landslide victory. Tamang’s wife Krishna Kumari Rai won from Namchi-Singhthang by defeating SDF’s Bimal Rai by a margin of 5302 votes.

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Of the nine ministers of the Tamang government, all but Lunga Nima Lepcha won. The Speaker Arun Kumar Upreti won from Arithang constituency by 2729 votes against the SDF’s Ashish Rai.L egendary footballer and the SDF vice-president Bhaichung Bhutia lost from Barfung constituency against the SKM candidate Rikshal Sirjee Bhutia by a margin of 4348 votes.

Party supporters who gathered in large number near counting centres celebrated the victory by bursting firecrackers. Elections to the assembly were held simultaneously with the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 19.

Ex-Chief Minister Chamling not in Assembly after four decades

The five-term former Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling will not be seen inside the Sikkim Assembly for the first time since 1985, after a crushing defeat at the hands of protégé-turned-archrival Prem Singh Tamang’s SKM.

Not only did his Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) lose 31 of the 32 Assembly seats it contested in the election, but even the 73-year-old politician could not win either of the two seats, Namcheybung and Poklok-Kamrang, he fought, a result few could have predicted.

Although the outcome of the Assembly election may be devastating for hardcore SDF supporters, the fall of Chamling, once a powerful regional satrap who thrived on sub-nationalism, had begun five years ago.

The SDF suffered a massive desertion of 12 MLAs soon after the 2019 Assembly election, when Sikkim Krantikari Morcha ended Chamling’s 25-year rule. Ten SDF legislators joined the BJP and two switched sides to the SKM, leaving Chamling as the lone party MLA in the Assembly.

Also Read | Arunachal Pradesh: BJP sweeps Assembly election, returns to power for third time

The SKM and BJP also poached a large number of SDF workers at the grassroots level. Even the entry of former Indian football skipper Bhaichung Bhatia into SDF failed to improve the prospects of the party.

Before his drastic fall, Chamling seamlessly led Sikkim as its Chief Minister for nearly a quarter of a century, eclipsing the 23-year tenure of the late Jyoti Basu, who was the Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000. Like Basu, whom he idolises, Chamling led his party to five terms in power from 1994 to 2019. This was no mean feat for a politician who had made a humble beginning in Sikkim politics by getting elected as the president of Yangang gram panchayat in 1982.

In 1985, Chamling won his maiden Assembly election from Damthang constituency in his home district of South Sikkim on the ticket of Sikkim Sangram Parishad (SSP) led by the then Chief Minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari. His political journey got a further boost in 1989 when he was made the Industries, Information, and Public Relations Minister by Bhandari after he was elected for a second term from Damthang.

However, the bonhomie between the two leaders did not last for long as Chamling questioned the leadership style of Bhandari and in turn, got sacked from the SSP in 1992. By then, Chamling had found his mooring in State politics and was looking forward to making an identity of his own.

In 1993, Chamling founded the SDF and led it to victory in the 1994 Assembly election. His stature continued to grow over the years as he successfully led the SDF to victories in the subsequent Assembly elections (1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014).

(with inputs from PTI and ANI)

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