Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday joined Pawan Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front and merged his Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) with the SDF.
Bhaichung formed the HSP in 2018 to take on Chamling — the longest-serving chief minister in India — but by a quirk of fate, ended up being a part of the SDF.
The HSP merged with the SDF at Ravangla, a small town 43km away from Gangtok. The development of Bhaichung joining the SDF was known much earlier.
“Before addressing the gathering here, I want to apologise,” said Bhaichung.
The ace footballer, whose footballing skills had garnered more appreciation than his political skills explained that in 2019, he had appreciated the “parivartan (change)” slogan.
“We wanted to give parivartan a chance but we are regretting the kind of change that has come. That change has destroyed Sikkim. For this, I want to apologise,” said Bhaichung.
In 2019, Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) and his Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) won the Sikkim Assembly elections.
Bhaichung's official joining, however, is a clear indication that the 2023 Sikkim Assembly elections are not an open goal for Golay.
“The SDF with Chamling in charge is making a comeback. Golay cannot take things lightly,” said a Sikkim resident.
The fact that Sikkim witnessed violence in the last four-and-a-half years of Golay rule has not particularly gone well with apolitical people of Sikkim, explained a resident of Sikkim.
“Golay is still to show his vision for Sikkim,” added an SDF supporter.
“In small geographic areas, political comebacks are difficult for parties that lose power. However, the SDF is in the race even though the climb is uphill. But the climb is not impossible,” said an observer.
Many in Sikkim, however, said Golay’s relentless grassroots campaigns — much like Duare Sarkar in Bengal — are emerging as a strong tool for the chief minister at the moment.