Sikkim looms under political transition as citizens shift their loyalties pre by-poll

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Opposition in Sikkim is going through a transitional phase which has traditionally been a ‘one-party ruled’ state with citizens shifting their loyalties swiftly to the party in power. The size of the state’s population makes it imperative that people stay close to power to derive benefits of the state fuelled by the cover of special constitutional status the Himalayan state enjoys.

There was some hope that the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) party after ruling for a historic 25 uninterrupted years would play the role of the main opposition. However, the quick meltdown with only its supremo, Pawan Chamling in assembly as its member, proves the political immaturity and the malpractices that have seeped into the system.

With murmurs of political instability, Sikkim is still on the edge till the by-elections are not over for three constituencies. These three constituencies are important as it will determine the relationship between the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As both the parties are in an official alliance, both at the centre and in North East, it needs to be pertinently looked upon how the direct or indirect dialogue between the two parties result into seat-sharing.

Will the SKM tone down its regionalism to accommodate its NDA partner BJP or contest in all three seats?

After weaning away 10 SDF legislators, the BJP has sharpened its pitch as the main opposition party with its visibility in public consciousness increasing rapidly. However, the relationship it shares with the ruling SKM may be redefined if the Morcha denies the saffron party any seat in the upcoming by-polls.

Meanwhile, SDF’s own weakened position will see a two-way flight of its panchayats and cadres to SKM and BJP. The BJP taking political advantage has taken several panchayats into its fold, particularly in the ten constituencies it holds, thereby arresting the flight of panchayats to the ruling front.

The current political situation of Sikkim is unique with majority opposition MLAs joining the ruling party of the centre and not the state. This denotes the tremendous shift in the balance of power where BJP led by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has considerably weakened not just regional parties but also the national opposition, the Congress.

Affairs of Sikkim may be distant for the centre, but Delhi looms large here with successive state governments aligning themselves with the party in power at the centre. SDF led government never faced an opposition which is a national party with a relatively higher number in assembly. The present SKM dispensation, however, faces a tough challenge with the ruling party in centre as the main opposition in Sikkim. There have been many voices emanating from both SKM and BJP on the nature of its alliance with each other.

The breakup of its pre-poll alliance and subsequent support to the BJP post-poll has further added to the already complicated and complex political situation in Sikkim which eagerly awaits the upcoming by-polls for a clearer and hopefully a cleaner picture.

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