Creating a record of sorts, Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling is seeking his sixth consecutive term in office in the upcoming Assembly elections.
However, political analysts feel this time it will not a smooth ride for Chamling as his party Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) is expected to face a tough challenge from Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) led by P S Golay and the Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP), floated last year by former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia.
The two national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, too are in the fray but they are not considered as potential threats.
Although the ruling SDF was with the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance after the last election, before this election, they opted to go it alone.
Sikkim’s 423,325 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise on April 11 to elect 32 members of the state Assembly and the lone Lok Sabha member.
Chief Minister since 1994, Chamling, 68, has surpassed the record held by former Chief Minister of West Bengal, the late Jyoti Basu, who was Chief Minister for 23 years.
Chamling has been known for his pro-poor policies. The number of people living below the poverty line in Sikkim has been reduced from 1.7 lakh in 2004-05 to 51,000 in 2011-12 which means the proportion of the poor in Sikkim remains well below the national average.
With women constituting 47 per cent of the population, their equity has ben increasingly recognized. According to a report by American think-tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Nathan Associates, Sikkim is the state with best working conditions for women in India.
The opposition parties, however, claim that Chamling is facing ‘huge anti-incumbency’.
Chamling is contesting from two seats – Poklok-Kamrang and Namchi Singhithang, -while Bhutia is in fray from Gangtok and Tumen Lingi seats.
The HSP in its manifesto has promised a Universal Basic Income and jobs.