It has always been Sikkim Krantikari Morcha’s highest priority to establish a Sikkimese society that does not differentiate any voter, especially a village level voter, on the basis of political affiliation. And from day one of coming to power the party has taken needful steps to achieve this. Our party’s policy of acceptance and zero victimisation of once political opponents, amidst major opposition within the party, speaks volumes of the fact that Sikkim Krantikari Morcha sincerely stood firm upon the basic tenets on which the party was formed.
Those who have accompanied SKM President Shri Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) in his padyatra’s as opposition leader, have heard Golay Saab speak of abolishing the stigma of political affiliation from village level politics in numerous occasions, also during his interactions with villagers. During these yatras in the initial years, the padyatris were greeted with locked doors, from fear of names being struck of the beneficiaries list. This very fear of discrimination from their rightful sahuliyats, further became detrimental to their political affiliation. While it took away their democratic right of choice, a luxury bestowed upon by democracy to even the most underprivileged sections of the society.
This was how an entire section of the underprivileged in our villages were being kept away from making their voice heard or even speaking up for themselves in the grassroot level. It was here that an independent panchayat system was seen as a way to empower the grassroots. By not undermining their basic right of choice to any political affiliation and giving them the luxury to choose their representative amongst themselves in the Panchayat level, without any fear from deprivation of their rightful sahuliyats (benefits); it meant a world of change to a deserving individual in the grassroots.
With the violence free 1st Independent Panchayat Elections underway in Sikkim, SKM has fulfilled one of its main promises made to village folks, empowering them to choose their representatives without fear or political consequences. Comparing it to the violent and party centric panchayat elections in the neighbouring West Bengal, we can be certain that we have achieved a milestone in democratising panchayati raj system as envisioned by the founding fathers of our nation India, the world’s largest democracy.
As per my first hand assessment and after numerous interactions with village level public of different areas, I have witnessed a truly historic elections with record number of candidates joining the fray. There was no pressure on candidates forcing withdrawal of candidature exerting force from the ruling party. Instead several ruling party members are contesting against each other to taste the fruit of victory. Fruitful discussions have brought about consensus amongst candidates paving way for numerous uncontested wins.
Another interesting observation has been that where the people seemed satisfied towards the area MLA, the more uncontested wins have been recorded. Although the same may not be so for constituencies neighbouring major urban hub like Gangtok. In such semi urban constituencies, there have been high number of contest. But in a totally independent panchayat election, constituencies recording 70% plus uncontested wins can be directly credited with the area MLA’s proper grip upon its constituents. While the leftovers being fought apolitically is indeed a master stroke in bringing the state’s panchayat system above political interference and providing a level playing field to all. The same can be concluded in Golay Saab’s own words, “Jo jeeta wohi Sikandar “
So this elections has been historic in every way and very much different from those in the past. No violence, No Political pressure to the voters, Voting to be based on merit and even consensus on choosing one’s representative. Such were never seen under the SDF regime. In the past 25 years the panchayat system was politicalised so that the grassroots were kept in a tight grip, even at the cost of their freedom or right to choice and it is this political monopoly in the grassroots that was abolished by SKM as promised to the people of Sikkim.
By Navraj Gurung.