SDF banking on Bhaichung Bhutia's popularity, young candidates to win Sikkim Assembly polls

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Bhaichung Bhutia Football

Ex-India footballer Bhaichung Bhutia (File image)

Gangtok: The opposition Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) led by five-time former chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling is banking on ex-India footballer Bhaichung Bhutia's popularity and young candidates in most Assembly constituencies to return to power in the Himalayan state.


The SDF also wants to utilise the anti-incumbency factor against the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) and fear among local people that the special status of Sikkim under Article 371 (F) of the Constitution and its old laws will be diluted if either the SKM or BJP come to power in the northeastern state, to win votes.

Elections to the 32-member Sikkim Assembly and the lone Lok Sabha seat in the state will be held on April 19.

The SDF which ruled the Himalayan state for 25 years from 1994 to 2019, lost to Prem Singh Tamang-led SKM in the last Assembly elections.


To give the SKM a tough fight in the Assembly polls, Chamling roped in former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia, a popular person in the Himalayan state to chart a new course in state politics.

Forty-five-year-old Bhutia buried all his differences with the SDF supremo and merged his party, Hamro Sikkim, with the SDF.

A grateful Chamling immediately rewarded the former footballer with the post of the SDF vice-president and party ticket to contest the Assembly elections.


Bhutia has started canvasing for the SDF supremo and requesting the people of the state to give Chamling one more term as chief minister.

"Chamling has leadership skills and vision to take Sikkim on the path of development and prosperity," Bhutia said.

"With Sikkim being a strategically important state, it needs to maintain peace and tranquillity and for that it must have a leader who can maintain the fragile social order and protect the rights and socio-economic and cultural ethos of the indigenous people comprising Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalis," the former India footballer said.


Both Chamling and Bhutia have been stoking the fear among the local people that the special status of Sikkim and its old laws will be diluted if either the SKM or BJP come to power alone or through a post-alliance.

Under Article 371F, Sikkim has been granted several benefits such as Sikkimese people has the right to own land and get state government jobs. They are also exempted from paying income tax.

Exuding confidence that the electorate of Sikkim with repose faith in it at the the hustings, the SDF is contesting all 32 assembly seats as well as the lone Lok Sabha seat in Sikkim in a bid for a sixth term in power.

Chamling is contesting from two assembly constituencies, Poklok-Kamrang in native Namchi district and Namcheybung in Pakyong district, while Bhutia has been given ticket to contest from Barfung (BL-Reserved) assembly constituency.

The SDF has put up young candidates in most of the assembly constituencies. It has given ticket for the lone Lok Sabha seat to the two-term MP P D Rai, a close aide of Chamling.