BJP sweeps Arunachal, Sikkim Assembly polls


The SKM was a constituent of the BJP-helmed National Democratic Alliance, but the two parties had ended their partnership ahead of the April 19 election…reports Asian Lite News

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) on June 2 recorded landslide victories to retain power for their third and second successive terms, in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim respectively.

The BJP bagged 46 of the 60 seats in the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly. The party had approached the April 19 election with 10 seats won uncontested, as no other party fielded candidates against Chief Minister Pema Khandu in the Mukto constituency, his deputy Chowna Mein in Chowkham, as well as eight others.

In Sikkim, the SKM won an unprecedented 31 of the 32 seats in the State Assembly, with Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang bagging two of them – Rhenock and Soreng-Chakung. The lone winner for the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), Tenzing Norbu Lamtha, had switched over from the SKM ahead of the Assembly election after being denied a ticket.

The SKM was a constituent of the BJP-helmed National Democratic Alliance, but the two parties had ended their partnership ahead of the April 19 election.

“We are grateful to the people of Arunachal Pradesh, who voted for the developmental works under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Mr. Khandu said, after his party won five seats more than it had done in 2019.

Political observers said that Sunday’s outcome followed a pattern: the party that rules the State and at the Centre usually wins elections in Arunachal Pradesh. While the BJP did not face any anti-incumbency, it was also better organised at the grass-roots level, and faced hardly any opposition.

The Congress, which had ruled the State for more than 30 years, only managed to field candidates for 19 of the 34 seats it had intended to contest. The National People’s Party (NPP), otherwise an NDA constituent, contested 20 seats, the most after the 60 fielded by the BJP.

While the NPP won five seats –the same as in 2019 – it was only former Minister Kumar Waii who saved the Congress from a complete rout by winning the Bameng seat. The Congress had won four seats five years ago.

The remaining seats were divided among the Nationalist Congress Party (three), the regional People’s Party of Arunachal (two) and Independents (three).

Among the major losers was 77-year-old Gegong Apang, who had been Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh for more than 22 years. He had floated the Arunachal Democratic Front ahead of the election in a bid to revive his political career.

The Sikkim election was expected to be a close contest between the SKM and the SDF. Instead, it turned out to be an almost complete sweep in favour of the SKM.

Voters in the Himalayan State have been giving a second chance to regional parties since the 287-day President’s Rule in 1985. The trend began with Nar Bahadur Bhandari’s Sikkim Sangram Parishad, continued with the SDF, and now the SKM.

Apart from indicating that voters had little or no complaints against the SKM, the outcome underlined the individual-driven politics in Sikkim. “Mr. Tamang has been a popular leader, particularly because of several pro-poor schemes and government jobs given to some 25,000 youths – a big thing for a State with 4.6 lakh voters – ahead of the polls,” Amit Patro, the editor of Sikkim Express, told The Hindu.

The SDF had accused the SKM of large-scale corruption but the ruling party turned the tables after the glacial lake outburst disaster in October 2023, pointing out how the SDF’s Chamling government had put the people’s lives at risk with sub-standard hydropower projects.

Tamang is also believed to have struck a chord with the voters by denying a party ticket to his son Aditya Tamang from the Soreng-Chakung seat, although his wife contested and won the Namchi-Singhithang constituency.

“Our party worked very hard but this victory is because of the love and trust of the people we earned in the past five years. We have the next five years to give our 100 per cent for the people of Sikkim,” he said, at a gathering in Gangtok’s Paljor Stadium to celebrate the party’s victory.

Sikkim’s 2024 mandate could be the end of the road for the 73-year-old former Chief Minister and SDF’s founder-president Pawan Kumar Chamling, who lost comprehensively from two seats – Namcheybung and Poklok-Kamrang. Former ace footballer Bhaichung Bhutia, who merged his Hamro Sikkim Party with the SDF in 2023, lost the Barfung seat, his sixth electoral defeat since contesting on a Trinamool Congress ticket in 2014.

The BJP, which had 10 MLAs even without contesting the 2019 election, and the newly-floated and crowdfunded Citizen Action Party, both came a cropper too. The BJP was believed to have been done in by the fears that its victory would lead to the dilution of Article 371F that guarantees special status for Sikkim. The fear was triggered by the expansion of the definition of ‘Sikkimese’ beyond the indigenous Bhutia, Lepcha, and Nepali people, in the Finance Act, 2023.

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