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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Sikkim CM gets major relief as EC allows him to contest polls; opposition targets BJP

The Election Commission noted that before 2003, disqualification applied in case of conviction for two or more years. Sikkim Chief Minister Tamang was convicted in a corruption case in 1996-97 and jailed for one year in 2017.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2019 22:50 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
Sikkim CM can now contest bypolls after Election Commission reduced his disqualification period to one year and one month.
Sikkim CM can now contest bypolls after Election Commission reduced his disqualification period to one year and one month.(@KirenRijiju/Twitter)

Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Tamang, more popularly known as P S Golay, got a major relief on Sunday as the Election Commission of India (ECI) allowed him to contest the coming state polls a day before the deadline for filing nomination.

Tamang, who was sworn-in on May 28, needs to get elected within six months of assuming office. The Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) contested the last assembly elections portraying him as chief ministerial candidate and toppled India’s longest-serving chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government.

Tamang, however, stayed away from the polls since section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, disqualifies one who served jail term from contesting elections for six years after release. He was jailed for corruption in 2017 and he served jail term for one year.

Responding to Tamang’s appeal, the ECI on Sunday reduced the disqualification to one year and one month. This period has elapsed since Tamang completed his sentence on August 10, 2018.

Responding to the ECI’s decision, Tamang on Sunday said, “I have full faith in God and the law of the country.”

For the by-elections, to be held on October 21, SKM and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have struck an alliance. BJP plans to contest two seats and Tamang will contest from the one allotted to his party.

Without the ECI’s Sunday order, Tamang would have had to resign. He was sworn-in on May 28.

Reacting on the development, Avinash Yakkha, the SDF spokesperson, said, “All democratic institutions and their branches have succumbed to the power of politics and money in this country.”

Biraj Adhikari, spokesperson of Harmo Sikkim Party led by former Indian soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia, said “The BJP, in a bid to gain political mileage in Sikkim, has played with the law of the land and has even used the ECI.”

In the Sikkim assembly elections, held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls, SKM won 17 seats while SDF won 15 in the 32-seat House. However, with one SKM legislator and two SDF legislators winning from two seats, SKM finally had 16 MLAs while SDF had 13. In August, 10 of the 13 SDF lawmakers, switched over to the BJP and two joined SKM. The Sikkim assembly at present has 18 SKM members, 10 BJP members and former chief minister Chamling as the sole SDF legislator.

Tamang, in his appeal to the ECI, stated that the crime for which he was convicted took place during 1996-97 when the law debarring convicts from contesting elections within six years from completion of sentence did not exist.

“It is a matter of fact that before the amendment of section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, in 2003, the disqualification would have been attracted only if the period of conviction was of two years or more,” the ECI observed in its September 29 order signed by chief election commissioner Sunil Arora and election commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra.

First Published: Sep 29, 2019 20:26 IST

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