Guwahati: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had much to celebrate on Tuesday with ten MLAs of the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) joining the saffron party at a formal ceremony in New Delhi. Former Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, however, refrained from shifting to the other side.
“Joining the BJP, we have now come to the mainstream – we will do whatever is desired by the central leadership,” said Dorjee Tshering Lepcha, an SDF leader who joined BJP on Tuesday.
“Everybody in Sikkim will welcome the decision, there is no doubt about it. People in the state want growth and development under Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he added.
In the event presided by BJP national working president JP Nadda and general secretary Ram Madhav, party state president DB Chauhan welcomed the new members, stating that the decision will benefit the state and its people.
On the other hand, SDF spokesperson Ganesh Kumar Rai said the party will continue to work for the state shouldering the responsibility of a constructive opposition party.
“Someone has rightly said that nothing is permanent but change. Today’s news of ten SDF MLAs joining the BJP is nothing unnatural. They must have thought that at present, their joining the BJP is in the best interest of the state considering the present political scenario of the state. My best wishes to them,” Rai said.
The BJP had failed to win a single seat in the recently concluded Assembly elections in Sikkim. The SDF had won 15 of the 32 assembly seats while Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) won 17 seats following which SDF lost control of the House, which it had held for 25 years.
Chamling had earlier set a new record by becoming India’s longest-serving Chief Minister of a state, overtaking former West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu.
Prem Sing Tamang, better known as PS Golay, had subsequently sworn in as the state Chief Minister. Golay will have to win an election within 6 months to retain his CM chair.
Golay was released from jail last year after being convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, but he has lost his right to contest election until August 2024. The Chief Minister had recently written to the Election Commission of India (ECI) seeking to waive off the remaining period of his disqualification under Section 11 of the Act.
Back in 1993, Chamling formed the SDF, which had ruled the Himalayan state for two and a half decades and he remained the party’s unanimously elected president.
Chamling can also claim credit for a host of achievements that had cemented his position amid the people in his state. It was under his leadership that Sikkim was declared the Cleanest State in India (2016), the First Fully Organic State (2016), Best State in Transparency and Accountability (under MGNREGA for 2017), Best Tourism Performing State in Northeast since 1998 and a state with the Best Working Conditions for Women (2016) among many other accolades.