Will Pawan Chamling, ruling Sikkim since 1994, be CM the sixth time in 2019?
Will Pawan Chamling, India’s longest serving chief minister, continue to occupy the hot seat in the tiny Himalayan state of Sikkim, or will PS Golay, once Chamling’s most trusted man, edge him out him is the question being asked all around the state.
With exit poll predictions not providing a clear picture, one will have to wait till Thursday when the results of Sikkim’s 32 assembly seats and the lone Lok Sabha seat would be announced along with the election results for the entire country.
Chamling, 69, the president of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), has been ruling Sikkim uninterrupted since 1994.
This time Chamling and SDF faced their toughest challenge at the hands of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) led by PS Golay, 51, a former minister in Chamling’s cabinet. The state witnessed simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls in the first phase on April 11.
With the exit poll projections for the state’s lone Lok Sabha seat varying, it has become difficult to predict who would emerge the winner.
P D Rai, the sitting Lok Sabha MP, said “The SDF will win at least 26 out of 32 assembly seats along with lone Lok Sabha seat.”
K T Gyaltsen, SDF’s spokesperson, said, “In the past quarter of a century, the SDF government has brought some great changes and there is no political leader in the state to match the quality, calibre and statesmanship of Chamling.”
“There is no alternative to Chamling, who could push the state and its people to better position. The SDF is going to form the government for sixth consecutive term.”
However, Prem Singh Golay popularly known as P S Golay the SKM president, said, “We are very much confident of forming a new government - a government of people.”
SKM built its campaign around corruption charges against Chamling, while Chamling focused on the development that his government ushered in since 1994.
Golay did not contest the Assembly election as he was convicted in a case of misappropriation of fund that happened when he was the minister in Chamling’s government during 1994-1999. He was disqualified as MLA and served one year jail term and came out amid grand welcome on August 10, 2018.
His son Aditya Golay is, however, contesting.
Jacob Khaling, the SKM spokesperson, said, “We will win at least 20 seats as people have voted for change to oust corrupt government.” “Though P S Golay did not contest the election, Khaling said, “Golay himself would be the next chief minister.”
Once the de-facto second in command in the ruling SDF, Golay has been an MLA five times and a minister thrice.
Apart from heading the government, Chamling writes poetry, fiction and also lyrics.
The Sikkim Assembly election had a dash of colour when Bhaichung Bhutia, the former star footballer of India, decided to contest the polls.
Bhutia, who is also the working president of Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP), said, “We will accept people’s verdict no matter what it may come and I request all parties to maintain peace even after declaration of results.” Bhutia is contesting from two assembly seats.
Though Bhutia also said it is very difficult to speculate which party is winning, he gave advantage to the opposition SKM.
He described his party stands for clean politics in Sikkim.
In 2014, the SKM had won 10 out of 32 assembly seats and posed a serious threat for Pawan Chamling and his government. The SKM got 42% of total votes in Sikkim. However seven of his MLAs defected to the SDF.
This time the SKM camp is ready to celebrate.