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Sikkim - Government

Five-time Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling's tenure ended in Sikkim on 23 May 2019 after over 24 years in power as his party, the Sikkim Democratic Front or SDF lost the state elections to a resurgent Sikkim Krantikari Morcha or SKM. Defying most expectations, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) trounced the 25- year-long rule of the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF). While the SDF got 15 seats in the hill state, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, which was formed in 2013, bagged 17 seats, one more than required for a majority in the 32-member Assembly.

Chamling, however, was elected from two assembly constituencies in the state assembly elections, Election Commission officials said. He had contested the elections from Namchi Singhithang and Poklok Kamrang assembly constituencies, they said. Chamling has been the chief minister of Sikkim for more than 24 years since December 1994.

SKM leader Prem Singh Tamang, better known as P.S.Golay, was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Sikkim on May 27, 2019. Between 2015 and 2016, his party lost seven MLAs to the SDF and Golay was disqualified from the Sikkim Legislative Assembly and convicted on the grounds of ‘misappropriating government funds’ worth 9.5 lakh rupees between 1994 and 1999 — during his association with the SDF. He was sentenced to one year in prison with a fine of 10,000 rupees. It was only in August 2018 that he was released from the jail and resumed campaigning with SKM. The BJP had initially struck a strategic alliance with SKM to take on the might of SDF in Sikkim. The alliance broke down soon after it was publicly announced, following which the BJP blamed SKM for having “chickened out at the last minute without giving any reasons,” as per a PTI report. Given that the SKM is giving the SDF a severe test, BJP would probably rue its missed chance, particularly on the back of its dominant performance in the rest of the North-Eastern states.

India has established itself as the largest democracy in the world, sustained not only by the true grit and determination of an independent and impartial Election Commission but also by a foolproof electoral system. It is this electoral system based on the principle of Universal Adult Suffrage, that has enabled the continuance, survival and stability of the Indian Political system.

Like other hilly and mountainous areas, the question of land has been central to the political economy of Sikkim, both because it is scarce and because of historical factors. For many centuries, feudalism had a stranglehold over land and society. Land rights were vested primarily in the nine Kazi (feudal lords) families, with each region rigidly separated from the others. According to the 1991 Census, Sikkim was predominantly rural with nearly 91 percent of the population living in villages.

In Sikkim, as elsewhere in the country, the movement for democracy and greater political and civil rights, was based on the demand for the abolition of the Zamindari system. The abolition of the Zamindari system in 1949, was immediately followed by an official notification making it compulsory for all revenues against land raised by revenue agents to be deposited directly with the government. The private estates of the Durbar, and the monastery land were left untouched by this new land regime. As the debate on land reforms and its vital role in initiating changes in the agrarian society for a rapid transformation picked up, land reform issues gradually gained ground, with both political and social dimensions.

In Sikkim, the directions of the Election Commission of India are complied with the sincerity and devotion befitting a transparent and participative Electoral System. The Electoral Rolls of the State have been fully computerized and are being continuously updated with additions of newly enrolled voters, deletions of expired or shifted voters, corrections of inaccurate details and transfer of names Inter-Constituency and Intra-Constituency. All the voters of Sikkim have been issued Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) and the target of 100% Photo Electoral Rolls has been achieved by the State.

Sikkim, one of the smallest and the least populated states in the country, has a unicameral legislature, with only one house of the State Legislative Assembly also called the Vidhan Sabha. The State legislative Assembly has 32 directly elected members. The tenure of the Vidhan Sabha is five years unless it is dissolved. The seat of the State Legislative Assembly is at Gangtok, the capital of the state.

The north eastern Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim joined the Indian Union on April 26, 1975. The first Legislative Assembly elections were held in 1979. The Indian National Congress won the first elections. Since then, the state has held regular elections to the Vidhan Sabha. In 1984 Sikkim Sangram Parishad founded by Shri Nar Bahadur Bhandari came to power. The party remained in power for ten years till losing ground to the the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF).

The Home Ministry proposed in November 2017 an increase in the number of seats in the Sikkim Assembly from 32 to 40. The expansion will be the first since the State merged with India in 1975. The seats are being increased to accommodate people from the Limboo and Tamang communities, notified as the Scheduled Tribes in Sikkim in January 2003. Of the eight seats proposed to be increased, five will be reserved for Limboo and Tamangs. Now, Sikkim has 12 seats reserved for Bhutias and Lepchas, two for the Scheduled Castes, one seat for the Sanghas and 17 general seats. As per constitutional provisions, the total number of seats for STs should be in proportion to the population.

The very topography of Sikkim, and the fact that it is, landlocked coupled with its agro-climatic variations have made it impossible for the State to accomplish an array of interventions making the process of economic development very limited. At times it has been a Hobson’s choice for the State to opt for a major development intervention as the long run cost, particularly, in terms of environmental security is higher than the short run benefit. This has forced Sikkim to function in a very constricted development space where the degree of manoeuvrability is very limited. In other States, the interventions by policy makers and politicians are not constrained by the factors that characterize the Sikkim Himalayas.

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