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Chamling braces for challenge in chase for sixth term

The race between the SDF and SKM is turning out to be much closer than what had been perceived

By Rajeev Ravidas in Gangtok
  • Published 11.04.19, 6:08 AM
  • Updated 11.04.19, 6:08 AM
  • 2 mins read
Pawan Chamling A Telegraph file picture

The jury is still out on which party between the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) and the main Opposition Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) will form the next government as the tiny Himalayan state goes to vote on Thursday in what is turning out to be a race much closer than what had been perceived.

The SDF is seeking to form the government for a sixth consecutive term, but a resurgent SKM is equally determined to ring in the change this time, having given its rival a scare five years ago when it bagged 10 of the 32 Assembly seats. Both the parties have fielded candidates in all the constituencies this time as well.

The SDF and SKM are also locked in a battle for the lone Sikkim Lok Sabha seat. SDF’s D.B. Katwal and SKM’s Indra Hang Subba are among the 11 candidates, including Hamro Sikkim Party’s Biraj Adhikari, Congress’s Bharat Basnet and BJP’s Laten Sherpa, in the fray.

While the main poll plank of the SDF is peace and prosperity during the 25-year-old reign of the party under chief minister Pawan Chamling, who wants to extend his record, the SKM is hoping to ride primarily on the anti-incumbency factor.

Else, there are no major differences between them on key political and economic issues except that this time the SDF has promised to implement the ambitious universal basic income scheme if it returns to power. Which perhaps explains why the election is seen more as a fight between Chamling and SKM president P.S. Golay, and not necessarily between the parties they head. Golay, though, is barred from taking part in any election till August 10, 2024, following his conviction in a graft case.

Golay has been the torch-bearer of the SKM’s campaign, having effectively hit the road from the day he was released from prison after serving a year’s term in the case on August 10 last year. Chamling, too, has been in election mode from the day he launched his 32-constituency mass contact programme early last year.

Analysts said there has been a noticeable change in the approach of the SKM and Golay himself in this election. “The SKM had this in-your-face kind of approach last time with Golay and his men even betraying signs of arrogance. This time the party has taken a low-key approach and focussed more on the grassroots. Golay has been a model of humility. If anything, it is Chamling who at times has been intemperate,” said an analyst.

Given that as many as 30,480 voters are in the age group of 18-19, both parties have fielded several new faces in a bid to woo the youths.

Sikkim votes today 

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