10 SDF legislators switch over to BJP
Ten legislators of the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) on Tuesday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi. The SDF, a former ally of the BJP, ruled Sikkim for 25 years until it was ousted from power by the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) earlier this year.
Now, the ruling SKM is part of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance.
The SDF won 15 seats while SKM won 17 in the 32-member assembly in the elections held in April. Two of its leaders got elected from two seats and now, they have to vacate one seat each. “So the effective strength of the SDF legislature party is 13 and 10 of them joined the BJP today,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said, adding, “With this, the BJP will become the main opposition party in Sikkim, and we will play the role of a constructive opposition.”
Former chief minister and SDF stalwart Pawan Kumar Chamling, who is the current leader of the opposition in Sikkim, however did not switch sides.
SDF legislators who joined the BJP include Dorjee Tshering Lepcha, Ugyen Tshering Gyatso, Narendra Kumar Subba, Dilli Ram Thapa, Karma Sonam Lepcha, Krishna Bahadur Rai, Tashi Thendup Bhutia, Farwanti Tamang, Pintso Namgyal Lepcha and Raj Kumari Thapa.
“We will work to expand the BJP’s base in Sikkim,” said Dorjee Tshering Lepcha, also a former minister. “We want lotus to bloom in Sikkim. The younger generation has accepted ‘Look East’ policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Chamling and Lepcha, both, successfully contested assembly election from two seats and they will vacate one seat each.
Kunga Nima Lepcha, an MLA from the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha and a minister in Prem Singh Tamang government, also won from two seats and will vacate one.
“Bypoll to three assembly seats will take place shortly. If the BJP wins all three, its tally will go up to 13 MLAs in a house of 32,” a BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity.
Seventeen is the magic figure in the assembly and if the SKM loses it seat, its tally will come down to 16.
“We can get within a striking distance of forming a BJP-led government in Sikkim if we win all these three by-election,” the BJP leader said.
Meanwhile, the news of 10 SDF MLAs joining the BJP triggered mixed reactions even as the BJP, which had no substantial base in the hill state until now, emerged as a major political force in Sikkim.
The ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), which the SDF had been accusing of enjoying “undue blessing” of the BJP, refused to comment. Jacob Khaling, the SKM spokesperson, said, “This is an internal matter of the BJP and SDF.”
D B Chauhan, state president of the BJP, said his party would one day rule Sikkim but did not elaborate any further.
D T Lepcha, a three-time minister in the erstwhile Pawan Chamling government and who led the 10 MLAs on Tuesday, said, “The decision to join the BJP was driven by our concern for Sikkim’s people and its youths. Only time will tell what Chamling’s future course of action will be.”
“[Pawan] Chamling did not join the BJP because of strategic reasons,” said an SDF leader asking not to be named. “He has the option of reviving the SDF in future.”