Sikkim Assembly Elections 2024: Ex-CM Pawan Kumar Chamling not to set foot in assembly after four decades

Although the outcome of the assembly polls may be devastating for hardcore SDF supporters, the fall of Chamling, once a powerful regional satrap who thrived on sub-nationalism, had begun five years ago.
Last Updated : 02 June 2024, 15:42 IST
Last Updated : 02 June 2024, 15:42 IST

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Gangtok: For the first time in nearly 40 years, five-term former chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling will not be seen inside Sikkim Assembly after a crushing defeat at the hands of protégé-turned-archrival Prem Singh Tamang's SKM.

Not only did his Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) lose 31 of the 32 assembly seats it contested in the polls, but even the 73-year-old politician could not win either of the two seats, Namcheybung and Poklok-Kamrang, he fought, a result few could have predicted.

Although the outcome of the assembly polls may be devastating for hardcore SDF supporters, the fall of Chamling, once a powerful regional satrap who thrived on sub-nationalism, had begun five years ago.

The SDF suffered a massive desertion of 12 MLAs soon after the 2019 assembly elections, when Sikkim Krantikari Morcha ended Chamling's 25-year rule. Ten SDF legislators joined the BJP and two switched sides to the SKM, leaving Chamling as the lone party MLA in the assembly.

The SKM and BJP also poached a large number of SDF workers at the grassroots level. Even the entry of former Indian football skipper Bhaichung Bhatia into SDF failed to improve the prospects of the party.

Before his drastic fall, Chamling seamlessly led Sikkim as its chief minister for nearly a quarter of a century, eclipsing the 23-year tenure of the late Jyoti Basu, who was the CM of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000.

Like Basu, whom he idolises, Chamling had led his party to five terms in power from 1994 to 2019.

This was no mean feat for a politician who had made a humble beginning in Sikkim politics by getting elected as the president of Yangang gram panchayat in 1982.

In 1985, Chamling won his maiden assembly election from Damthang constituency in his home district of South Sikkim on the ticket of Sikkim Sangram Parishad (SSP) led by the then chief minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari.

His political journey got a further boost in 1989 when he was made the Industries, Information and Public Relations Minister by Bhandari after he was elected for a second term from Damthang.

However, the bonhomie between the two leaders did not last for long as Chamling questioned the leadership style of Bhandari and in turn, got sacked from SSP in 1992.

By then, Chamling had found his mooring in the state politics and was looking forward to making an identity of his own. In 1993, Chamling founded SDF and led it to victory in the 1994 assembly polls.

His stature continued to grow over the years as he successfully led the SDF to victories in subsequent assembly polls in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.

The SDF leader's flexible approach to public life has seen him deal with equal felicity with the central governments of all ideological hues since 1994 and get the best possible financial support for his home state.

He was probably the only chief minister who had seen six prime ministers ranging from the late P V Narasimha Rao to Narendra Modi.

Apart from his electoral successes, Chamling was also known for his oratorial skills and his ability to make lengthy speeches during which he used to crack jokes, use colloquial phrases, and share his vision of development and welfare with the audience.

Though he is only a matriculate to show for his academic qualification, Chamling has been a prolific writer and poet penning his works in Nepali.

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Published 02 June 2024, 15:42 IST

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