In a massive political development in Sikkim, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) has been dealt a big setback as 12 of its 13 legislators are joining the Bharatiya Janata Party, leaving a huge void in their ranks. Barring Pawan Kumar Chamling, the rest of the members have joined the BJP, with three-time former minister DT Lepcha leading the way.
Ten members of the SDF joined the BJP under the presence of the national secretary Ram Madhav on Tuesday. DT Lepcha, a five-time MLA from Sikkim, was inducted into the BJP followed by three-term MLA Ugen Gyatso and the other leaders.
National secretary of BJP Ram Madhav said that more than two-thirds members of the SDF wanted the party to be merged with the BJP and hence the national party now has a chance to govern Sikkim. The SDF has 15 seats in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly with one leader contesting from two constituencies, which gets the number of members to 13. With 10 legislators joining the BJP, the SDF now stands deserted with just one or two members.
''I welcome all those who have joined the BJP today. SDF is the opposition in Sikkim. Now that the parties have come together, BJP can take up constructive opposition in the state. Under the guidance of party president Amit Shah and JP Nadda, the ten legislators have been accepted to the BJP'', he said.
Lepcha said they were impressed with the "look east" of the Narendra Modi government, as he highlighted that his state is bounded by China, Bhutam and Nepal.
"This is the first time that MLAs of a regional party in Sikkim has joined a national party 'en bloc'. We want lotus to bloom in Sikkim," he said, referring to the BJP's election symbol."
The BJP's immediate challenge in the state will be the byelections to three seats.
In the recently concluded general elections in the state in April 2019, the Sikkim Kranti Morcha (SKM) emerged as the ruling party after winning 17 of the 32 seats in the state. The Sikkim Democratic Front came second in the race, grabbing 15 seats in the election, with one member from their party winning in two constituencies. Prem Singh Tamang, the leader of the Sikkim Kranti Morcha, is the chief minister of the state and was earlier a part of the Sikkim Democratic Front after which he ditched the party to form SKM.