Consensus cry on seat share

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  • Published 10.02.03

Gangtok, Feb. 10: The recently formed Sikkim United Democratic Alliance (SUDA) — a group of three political parties and two political organisations — has called for consensus instead of politics on the seat reservation issue.

Senior members of the alliance told The Telegraph that the seat reservation issue was a matter of “grave” concern and had to be tackled through non-political means.

SUDA was formed recently to fight for the political and democratic rights of the Sikkimese. Three political parties of the state — the Sikkim unit of BJP, Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee and Himali Rajya Parishad — are members of the alliance. Nepali Bhutia Lepcha National Liberation and the Organisation of Sikkimese Unity (OSU) complete the alliance.

“The state government should come forward and hold a meeting of all political parties, intellectuals, social organisations, bureaucrats, former legislators and representatives from all communities before taking any decision on the reservation issue,” said a senior member of SUDA.

The OSU chief Jigme N. Kazi said the issue concerned the rights of the people of the state, who were entitled to place their views and be heard before the government took a decision.

People’s representatives should also discuss the opinion of legal and constitutional experts, he added.

Criticising the government’s silence on the issue, Kazi said the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) had made no attempt to clarify its stand on the issue.

BJP Sikkim unit president K.C. Pradhan said the last time the government had managed to arrive at an all-party consensus was when it thwarted the extension of central income tax to the state. “The seat reservation issue is a major political issue and merits careful consideration as it concerns the future of the Sikkimese people,” he added.

Ever since the Limboos and the Tamangs were added to the list of Scheduled Tribes, the seat reservation issue has snowballed into a controversy.

While the Bhutias and the Lepchas fear a reduction in their quota of 12 reserved seats, there is a growing demand for protection of the political rights of the LT combine in the form of seat reservations in the Assembly.

The SDF and the Opposition Sikkim Sangram Parishad had sought the opinion of legal and constitutional experts on the issue.

While former chief minister and leader of the Opposition Nar Bahadur Bhandari has made public the legal opinion he has received, the ruling SDF is yet to do so.