SDF leaders during a press conference at the party office on Friday. Credit: EastMojo Image

Gangtok: The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) has announced the second and final list of 15 candidates for the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the state.

Following the release of the list on the social media page of chief minister and party president Pawan Kumar Chamling, spokespersons KT Gyaltsen and Bhim Dahal along with sitting Lok Sabha MP PD Rai addressed media persons at the party’s office in Gangtok on Friday.

While DB Kattel was named for the lone Lok Sabha seat, Tshering Lama was declared as the the party’s candidate for Sangha seat. In Sikkim legislative assembly, one ‘Sangha’ seat is reserved for monks belonging to the monasteries.

The other candidates announced on Friday include DB Subba for Yangthang, Sancha Raj Subba for Soreng-Chakung, Tashi Thendup Bhutia for Barfung, Gopal Baraily for West Pendam, Karma Ongdi Bhutia for Shyari, DT Lepcha for Martam-Rumtek, GM Gurung (Junior) for Khamdong-Singtam, Hamendra Adhikari for Rhenock, KB Rai for Chujachen, Shyam Pradhan for Arithang and DR Thapa for Upper Burtuk. The two remaining seats for North Sikkim district, both of which are Bhutia-Lepcha seats, were also announced with Ugen Nidup Bhutia declared for Kabi-Lungchok and Tshering Wangdi Lepcha for Lachen-Mangan constituencies.

Moments after the announcement, dissatisfied supporters of party leaders who were not given tickets shouted slogans, with a few of them even vandalising office properties. The disgruntled supporters were mostly of Ashish Rai, who wanted the Gangtok Municipal Corporation chairman to be selected from the Arithang constituency. Another set of supporters wanted Tenzing Lamtha for Shyari constituency.

“Ashish Rai’s candidature was a demand of the people of the Arithang constituency. This has happened for a second time when he was sidelined from the party. In the previous election also, we lost because of the same reason and so many issues of the constituency have not been addressed or solved in all these years. Few opportunists have ruined a justified candidate like Rai”, one of Rai’s supporters said.

Another supporter highlighted how the selected candidate Shyam Pradhan himself had taken the decision to serve the party instead of running for candidature. “A coordination meeting had taken place wherein both Shyam Pradhan and NK Pradhan had taken the decision to not contest and support Ashish Rai for candidature. Rai has been a youth representative and has done a lot of work for the constituency. We had taken his candidature to the chief minister for consideration and his name was being floated even till 4 pm today. We wanted a winning candidate, hence, we supported Ashish Rai”.

On the dissatisfaction expressed by some supporters, sitting MP PD Rai said, “There will always be factions who want a particular candidate to be selected and such dissatisfaction is bound to happen. The candidates declared are the ones whom we believe will take the party’s principle and policies ahead to the people and the same was declared by a unanimous decision of the parliamentary committee. Party president has time and again appealed that supporters must believe in party’s principle and loyalty.”

“We believe that soon such dissatisfaction will die out as currently they are in a lot of enthusiasm to support their respective candidate, but the principle of the party stands tall. We are hopeful that all such supporters will work for the promotion of the selected candidate in their respective constituency. In every election we have seen such dissatisfaction being expressed by supporters but every time we have countered such situations and solved such issues. This is an internal issue within the party and a minor issue which we will solve them,” said spokesperson Bhim Dahal.

On DT Lepcha being declared from two constituencies, a first time for an SDF candidate other than party president Chamling, Dahal referred it to be a political strategy of the party. “Dorjee Tshering Lepcha was formerly a very strong elected representative from Sang-Martam area with a lot of people demanding his candidature from the constituency. There were many probable candidates from the constituency and all of them extended their support to DT Lepcha to lead the charge,” added Dahal.

The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front’s office in Gangtok was vandalised by disgruntled supporters following the final announcement of the candidates’ list on Friday

In the latest list, among 15 names, eight new faces were declared, taking the total of party first-timers to 18, for the 32-seat assembly and the lone Lok Sabha seat.

“In terms of youth, if we have to take those below the age of 50 years, we have a 50% representation of the youth. There are four women candidates, though we wanted to give more representation, we felt there wasn’t adequate representation for suitable candidates on the win ability. We feel there will be more representation of women in the 2024 elections”, said Rai.

On five seats being promised for Limboo-Tamang communities, the party delivered with three representatives from Limboo and two from Tamang community, with Rai asserting that “SDF has fulfilled that promise”.

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