The Election Commission on Friday appointed retired IPS officer Vivek Dube as a special observer for the Sikkim bypolls, scheduled to take place on October 21.
The bypolls for three Assembly constituencies – Poklok-Kamrang, Martam-Rumtek and Gangtok, but the elections have been marred by accusations of violence made by the erstwhile ruling party, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), which was defeated by the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) earlier this year after a 25-year rule in the state.
In its order, the EC has said that Dube, a 1981-batch officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, has been deputed “to specifically report” about the law-and-order situation in the state and oversee deployment and other security-related issues, “specifically for 10 Poklok-Kamrang Assembly Constituency'”.
The SDF wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer on October 11, a day after former Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s car was allegedly attacked by members of the SKM at Poklok-Kamrang constituency. According to the representation made by the SDF, its supporters were heckled and manhandled by SKM cadres during a campaign, and Chamling’s vehicle was pelted with stones. SDF made another representation to Governor Ganga Prasad on October 16, and have since approached the EC.
While the SDF has alleged violence across the state, they admit that the representations were made specifically in relation to Poklok-Kamrang – a constituency that is being contested between SDF candidate Moses Rai and present Chief Minister P S Golay.
Golay was unable to contest the Assembly elections in April as he had been serving time in prison for corruption. While he has served as the CM after SKM’s win over the SDF, this tenure was limited to six months.
Golay was permitted to contest the bypolls by the EC earlier this month. His continuing as the chief minister depends on his victory from Poklok-Kamrang – if he were to lose, the SKM would have to look for a new chief minister.
“This is why the violence has been so high in this particular constituency. Because Golay wants to win it by hook or crook. We have never seen violence like this in Sikkim before, Sikkimese are not violent people. We believe that the SKM has brought in hired hands from neighbouring Darjeeling to disrupt the campaign,” said former SDF Lok Sabha MP P D Rai, who made a representation to the EC on Friday.
The SDF had demanded that the Poklok-Kamrang election be postponed by four weeks. They had also demanded that the DIG (Range) Sikkim, Tenzing Bhutia, be removed, accusing him of being hand-in-glove with the SKM.
Meanwhile, with 10 SDF legislators defecting to the BJP in August, the saffron party is now the largest opposition party in the state, and is positioned to put up a close fight in the two bypolls it will contest on October 21.