Sikkim: Chamling reign ends as lieutenant-turned-rival takes centre stage

Updated 2:30 PM, 24 May, 2019
Sikkim Krantikari Morcha chief Prem Singh Tamang (left) was a minister in the Pawan Kumar Chamling government for three terms.

The winning streak of Pawan Kumar Chamling, the country’s longest-serving chief minister, has come to an end after 25 years with Sikkim voting out his party.

Prem Singh Tamang-led Sikkim Krantikari Morcha won 17 of the state’s 32 Assembly seats while Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) got 15 seats.

SKM also bagged the lone Lok Sabha seat, with Indra Hang Subba emerging victorious.

Assembly elections for all 32 seats in Sikkim were held simultaneously with the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 11.

Chamling was the longest-serving chief minister since Independence, having won the Assembly elections in 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. In 2009, the SDF had won all 32 Assembly seats.

The outgoing-CM, however, won both the assembly seats — Poklok-Kamrang and Namchi Singhithang for the sixth consecutive time.

The SDF has conceded defeat and congratulated the Krantikari Morcha. “We thank the people of Sikkim for giving us a long rope to serve them,” party spokesperson KT Gyaltsen said. “We did our best to take our state on the path of development and prosperity under the leadership of Pawan Kumar Chamling.”

The SDF, which is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Northeast Democratic Alliance, had won 22 seats in the 2014 Assembly elections. In the past, the SDF had won the Assembly elections in 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. In a record of sorts, the SDF had won all 32 Assembly seats back in 2009.

Both the Sikkim Democratic Front and the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha contested all 32 Assembly seats. Other parties in the fray include the Congress and former footballer Bhaichung Bhutia-led Hamro Sikkim Party. Bhutia, who floated his party last year after quitting the Trinamool Congress, is also seen as BJP’s team B. Ahead of the elections, rumours were afloat that his party was in dialogue with the BJP leadership to form a pre-poll alliance to take on the SDF. The BJP, which is trying to make inroads into the state, attempted to make an alliance with the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha. The bid, however, fell through over seat-sharing.

Who is Prem Singh Tamang?

Prem Singh Tamang, also known as PS Golay, founded the SKM in 2013. A former government teacher, 51-year-old Tamang was elected to the state Assembly for the first time in 1994 on an SDF ticket and went on to become Chamling’s trusted lieutenant who later turned an arch rival. He held ministerial portfolios in Chamling’s cabinet for three consecutive terms from 1994-2009.

In the 2014 elections, under Golay’s leadership, the party won 10 of 32 seats in the Assembly and became the second-largest party and opposition in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly.

Disqualified as MLA

Back in 2017, the SKM president and MLA from Upper Burtuk was disqualified from the Sikkim legislative assembly following his conviction in a corruption case in 2016. He was charged with misappropriating Rs 9.5 lakh meant for distributing cows to beneficiaries under a state government scheme, when he was the animal husbandry minister in the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government in 1994-1999. He was sentenced to one year imprisonment by a lower court in December 2016, but was later granted bail.

After serving a year’s jail term, Golay’s release on August 10 last year saw a sea of crowd gathered to greet him. It was seen as the biggest-ever gathering for any political event in the tiny hill state.

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