Sikkim: India’s longest-ruling CM Pawan Chamling is now sole SDF MLA

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NEW DELHI: A day after 10 of its 13 MLAs joined the BJP, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) suffered another jolt on Wednesday when two legislators of the party switched over to the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM).

The SDF, which ruled Sikkim for nearly 25 years, is now left with just one MLA—Pawan Kumar Chamling—who has also been the party supremo since its formation 26 years ago.

MLAs G.T. Dhungel and Em Prasad Sharma on Wednesday announced they were joining the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha at a press conference.

On Tuesday, 10 SDF MLAs had deserted the party and joined the BJP in the national capital.

“We have joined the SKM as we feel comfortable with its leadership and agendas,” Dhungel and Sharma told reporters in Gangtok.

With the arrival of two SDF MLAs, the strength of the ruling SKM has gone up to 18, while the BJP has 10 MLAs and the SDF is left with one MLA.

The BJP has now become the main opposition in the state, where it had not won a single seat in the Assembly polls held in April this year.

The 32-member Sikkim Legislative Assembly presently has 29 MLAs after three legislators vacated one seat each on being elected from two constituencies.

The two MLAs, who crossed over to the SKM, had earlier revolted against the SDF leadership by attending the budget session of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly this month in defiance of the party’s decision to stay away from the House.

“We had to make a choice after 10 SDF MLAs joined the BJP, a national party, in New Delhi yesterday… We consulted each other and decided to join the SKM as it remains the only regional party that represents the interests of the local people,” they said.

Dhungel and Sharma, who represent Upper Tadong and Namcheybong Assembly seats, respectively, had demanded from the Speaker L.B. Das to be given separate seats as ‘SDF-2’, which the latter had obliged.

The Sikkim gains has further enlarged influence of the BJP in the northeast.

The BJP is running governments as the main party or in alliance with regional parties in all the northeastern states except Sikkim and this development has pushed the party closer to power in the picturesque tiny state as well.

The SDF, headed by Pawan Kumar Chamling, ruled the state for over 25 years, making him the longest-serving chief minister of the country, but he lost power in the recent polls.

The SDF won 15 seats while the SKM won 17 in the 32—member Assembly. Since two of the SDF MLAs had won from two seats, they resigned from one seat each, reducing the party’s strength to 13 in the Assembly.

The SDF was a BJP ally earlier, but now the ruling SKM has replaced it as a member of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance.

Chief Minister and SKM president Prem Singh Tamang aka Golay has visited New Delhi on several occasions to strengthen ties with the BJP top brass.

Source: Press Trust of India