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Sikkim rural poll

Gangtok, Nov. 2: The CPM and the BJP have not fielded candidates in the Sikkim panchayat elections to be held tomorrow as they are apprehensive of threats from the SDF.

The Congress has decided not to take part in the polls citing lack of time to prepare for the contest.

Elections will be held to 420 gram panchayat wards and 70 zilla panchayat seats tomorrow. A total of 566 gram panchayat wards and 38 zilla panchayat seats were declared uncontested as only the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) fielded candidates there.

The CPM said its experience in 2007 had forced the party to refrain from contesting the polls. “When the CPM fielded candidates in 2007, they were threatened by SDF supporters. Apprehending a similar situation this time, the party’s central committee decided to back Independents. The party has extended support to Independents in 10 gram panchayat wards,” said Anjan Upadhaya, a member of the CPM state secretariat.

The BJP has also cited a similar reason for the party’s decision to not contest the polls.

“We are afraid of attacks from SDF supporters. If we field our candidates, members of the ruling party might create a fear psychosis. We are backing 40 Independents, in 30 gram panchayat seats and 10 zilla panchayat wards. The BJP is confident of winning six zilla panchayat seats and 20 gram panchayat wards,” said state BJP president Padam Chettri.

The Congress said its non-participation was because of lack of time for campaigning. “Since the polls were declared just a month ago, we didn’t get enough time for the preparations. So, we decided not to contest. There are many Congress supporters who are contesting as Independents,” said Congress leader N.B. Bhandari. He refused to disclose the number of Independents backed by the party.

The state election commission has said there are 176 gram panchayats in Sikkim and they together have 987 wards.

“Of the 987 wards, 566 were declared uncontested as only SDF fielded candidates there. As nobody has filed nominations in a ward in Tingchim Chandey gram panchayat in the North district, no election will be held tomorrow. In the rest of the 420 wards, the SDF and Independents are contesting. Only one Independent has filed nominations in each of these wards,” said Geeta Bhutia, the secretary of the state election commission.

Sources said the state had 108 zilla panchayat wards and the SDF had already won 38 seats uncontested.

Sikkim has 2,20,646 voters — 1, 15, 018 are males and 1, 05, 628 females. Bhutia said polls to the ward in Tingchim Chandey would be held later.

This year, 50 per cent of the gram panchayat and zilla panchayat wards are reserved for women. The campaigning for the polls ended on October 31.

The commission has set up 420 polling stations across the state and voting will be held from 8am to 4pm. A total of 1,389 electronic voting machines will be used for the polling. Counting will be held on November 5.