Ten SDF MLAs join BJP: Sikkim may be headed towards Arunachal Pradesh route, as mass crossovers leave ex-CM in the lurch
As many as 10 MLAs of the Sikkim Democratic Front joined the BJP on Tuesday, propelling the saffron party to the status of the main Opposition in a state where it had not won a single seat in the recent Assembly polls.
The MLAs met BJP working president JP Nadda and joined the party in the presence of its general secretary Ram Madhav, who is in charge of the party's affairs in the North East. On Wednesday, two other legislators switched over to the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), leaving the SDF with just one MLA — former chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling.
The SDF MLAs who joined the BJP are Dorjee Tshering Lepcha, Ugyen Tshering Gyatso, Narendra Kumar Subba, Dilli Ram Thapa, Karma Sonam Lepcha, Krishna Bahadur Rai, Tashi Thendup Bhutia, Farwanti Tamang, Pintso Namgyal Lepcha and Raj Kumari Thapa.
File image of former Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling. AFP
Implications for Sikkim politics
The BJP is running the government either as the main party or in alliance with regional parties in all the northeastern states except Sikkim, but this development has pushed the party closer to power there as well.
The SDF was an ally of the saffron party (for Lok Sabha elections) earlier but the ruling SKM has replaced it as a member of the BJP-headed North East Democratic Alliance. The switching sides of the SDF MLAs may alter the relationship between the SKM and the BJP as the latter is likely to flex its muscles with 10 MLAs on its side.
In the past, Sikkim chief minister and SKM president Prem Singh Tamang aka Golay has been made several visits to New Delhi to strengthen friendship with the BJP top brass.
The SDF headed by Pawan Kumar Chamling had ruled the state for over 25 years, making him the longest-serving chief minister of the country. However, Chamling lost power in the recent Assembly polls, which were held along with the Lok Sabha elections. The party won 15 seats while the SKM won 17 in the 32-member assembly. SDM had to vacate two seats after two of its MLAs won from two seats each in the recent Assembly seats, bringing down its strength in the Assembly to 13.
The recent political realignments in Sikkim indicate that the state may be going in a trajectory similar to that of Arunachal Pradesh.
2016 Arunachal Pradesh crisis
In early 2016, the Nabam Tuki-led government was dismissed following days of turmoil after 21 of the 47 Congress MLAs rebelled against the chief minister. The Governor of Arunachal Pradesh placed the state under President's Rule on 26 January, 2016.
In July that year, in a major blow to the BJP and the Centre, the Supreme Court ordered restoration of the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh by quashing all the Governor's decisions that had precipitated its fall in January, holding them "violative" of the Constitution.
However, the win for the Congress was short-lived. Tuki resigned hours before a floor test and Pema Khandu, who was then with the Congress, took over as chief minister on 17 July.
In September 2016, Khandu quit the Congress along with 43 party MLAs and joined the People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh (PPA). Nabam Tuki, Khandu's predecessor, was the only MLA who chose to stay with the Congress.
Months later, in January 2017, a BJP government was installed in Arunachal Pradesh after 33 out of 43 PPA MLAs led by Khandu joined the saffron brigade.
Soon after the BJP government took over the reins, Khandu had told reporters at the Assembly premises, "Lotus has finally bloomed in Arunachal. The people of the state will see a new dawn of development in the new year under the new government."
Going by the ongoing developments in Sikkim, preparations may well be on for the blooming of the "lotus" through similar means in this state as well.