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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

Citizen Action Party and BJP expected to impact outcome of upcoming Assembly elections

CAP and BJP are contesting in 30 of 32 Assembly seats each and their performance may alter fate of two major actors in fray, SKM and SDF

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 17.04.24, 10:45 AM
PS Tamang (Golay) during his campaign at Jorethang on Tuesday

PS Tamang (Golay) during his campaign at Jorethang on Tuesday

The Citizen Action Party and the BJP, the two relatively smaller parties in Sikkim, are expected to impact the outcome of the upcoming Assembly elections, as the Himalayan state votes for its 32-seat Assembly and the lone Lok Sabha seat on April 19.

Ganesh Rai, a former leader in Pawan Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), formed CAP in January 2023 to “reinvent” Sikkim politics. The BJP, which did not win a single seat in the 2019 Assembly elections, managed to bring together 12 MLAs through defections and victories in by-polls with support from the ruling Sikkim Krantikar Morcha (SKM) led by chief minister Prem Singh Tamang (Golay).

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This election, the BJP, however, decided to break its alliance with the SKM and fight it alone. The CAP and the BJP are contesting in 30 of the 32 Assembly seats each and their performance may alter the fate of the two major actors in the fray, the SKM and the SDF.

Sikkim has one of the lowest electoral strengths in India with only 4.6 lakh voters and this could be a reason behind a change in the poll outcome. The 2019 Sikkim Assembly results show that victory margins in most seats have been wafer-thin.

The winning margin in Yangthang was 47 votes, Martam-Rumtek was 73, Yoksam-Tashiding was 79, Salgari-Zoom was 93, and Barfung was 97. The victory margin was less than 500 votes in 11 constituencies and between 500 and 1,000 votes in nine constituencies.

“With 20 of the 32 seats (more than the halfway mark of the Assembly) being decided by less than 1,000 votes in 2019, it would be interesting to see what kind of an impact the CAP and the BJP will have on the results this time,” said an observer from Sikkim.

In 2019, though the SKM won 17 seats, its vote share was 47.03 per cent, a shade lesser than SDF’s 47.63 per cent, which won 15 seats. “Unlike in 2019, the other alternatives to SKM and SDF are slightly stronger this time,” the observer said.

The CAP and the BJP gaining strength could make the contest tighter for the SKM and SDF this time.

“There is no denying that the SKM government did undertake a number of welfare schemes with Golay holding several grassroots-level outreach programs but there are signs that it would not be a smooth sail for the ruling party. The votes of CAP and BJP could swing the results,” said a Gangtok resident who refused to be identified.

Sikkim has been a peaceful state but in the last few years, there has been an increase
in political attacks, which has not gone down well with the voters.

Former Assembly Speaker during the SDF regime K.N. Rai was attacked in Namchi last month. A video of an attack on Keshav Sapkota, a critic of the state government, in Singtam in April 2023, sent shockwaves across the state. Attacks during Opposition rallies, on their leaders and supporters continue across Sikkim.

“At the moment, it’s not a government but a mafia operating in Sikkim. A government should be for all, no one should fear it.... Today, the corrupt, the thieves, those who pelt stones, attack houses, and set vehicles on fire are the most secure people in Sikkim. The ones who say that stones should not pelted, heads should not be smashed are the insecure ones,” said Ganesh Rai, the CAP chief ministerial candidate.

The SKM, however, believe their welfare measures will help the party sail through this election.

“The Sikkimay janta (people of Sikkim) have made up their minds. The Sikkimay janta have understood the work done by the SKM government in the past five years. The people of Sikkim love SKM from the bottom of their hearts,” said Golay.

Rai, however, alleged that only SKM party cadres have been able to reap the benefits of the welfare schemes and the deserving ones have got nothing.

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