GANGTOK: Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) Supremo and former Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling emerged from his 3-year long self-imposed exile to attend the budget session of the assembly on Monday. Chamling had been boycotting the house to protest government inaction against those who shouted slogans like “Chamling Chor” in the house on the day of the swearing-in of MLAs in 2019.
“I was not attending the house in protest. The day I was heckled in this assembly was a sad day,” Chamling said in the assembly demanding action against the sloganeers. Currently, he is the sole opposition MLA in 32-member Sikkim assembly with 19 MLAs of the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) and 12 from its alliance party BJP (10 defected from SDF).
The SDF chief has been on the target of the ruling SKM for not attending assembly sessions for the past three years.
After former CM Chamling arrived in Sikkim in December last year, there has been a spate of political violence in the state including stone-pelting on this convoy. This has directly engaged supporters of the two main parties in violent clashes for the past few months. Both the parties often blame each other for the violence.
On January 8 and 9, Chamling was heckled and stopped by SKM supporters in two separate incidents in Melli and Sadam respectively. In Sadam, the situation blew out of proportion with stone pelting between the supporters of the two parties.
The high voltage drama erupted in different parts of state capital Gangtok as Chamling exited from the assembly after the session was adjourned following obituary references to former Chief Minister late BB Gurung.
SDF supporters have alleged that SKM workers pelted a stone at Chamling’s car, which barely missed his vehicle and hit a taxi behind instead. This led to the SDF supporters to launch a protest in front of Sadar Thana, Gangtok, which led to further clashes between the members of both the parties.
A memorandum was also submitted by the opposition to Governor Ganga Prasad alleging “anarchy” in Sikkim. “There is no moral ground for SKM to stay in power. We have demanded for President’s rule in Sikkim,” said Chamling on the same day after meeting the Governor at Raj Bhawan.
The ruling SKM meanwhile has rubbished the allegation with Bikash Basnet, Press Secretary to CM saying, “We condemn the conspiracy to blame SKM government for such premeditated acts of disturbance. SKM government is committed to maintain peace in Sikkim.”
On Tuesday, Sikkim police arrested four persons, namely, Sanjeev Gurung, Jigme Bhutia, Tenzing Bhutia and Navin Pradhan, in connection with three different cases registered by SDF members for stone pelting at Chamling and violence on SDF supporters.
“It suits the ruling party to target SDF Chief, as it will make the contest of 2024 more bi-polar (SKM v/s SDF) instead of a face-off with an aggressive alliance partner like the BJP,” said a political commentator on anonymity.
Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, meanwhile, has further raised the pitch in the assembly. He slammed his predecessor Chamling and said that Chamling should accept the truth of SKM coming to power. He alleged that many malpractices occurred in SDF government including in the hydropower sector and that CBI would now be brought into the state to investigate cases against the erstwhile regime.
Sikkim has hardly seen any significant political violence in the past many years. Being sensitively located as it shares three international borders (with China, Nepal and Bhutan), the sudden increase in political violence is a concerning development for India’s most peaceful state.