Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang filed his nomination for the upcoming bypolls in the state from the Poklok-Kamrang assembly constituency on Monday, a day after the Election Commission drastically reduced his disqualification period from six years to one.
Prem Singh Tamang had spent a year in jail after being found guilty of misappropriating government funds in a cow distribution scheme as the Minister of Animal Husbandry in the 1990s. The verdict against the Chief Minister, which was upheld by the Sikkim High Court as well as the Supreme Court, also became the basis for barring him from contesting the elections for six years. Following that, he spent a year in jail from August 2017 to 2018.
However, Prem Singh Tamang's electoral fortunes turned around dramatically yesterday. A day after the BJP announced an alliance with his party, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), the poll body reduced his disqualification period - effectively allowing him to contest the bypolls on October 21. As Prem Singh Tamang was appointed as the Chief Minister after the assembly polls in April, he was required by law to win an election in the next six months to continue in the post.
The Election Commission's move to reduce the Chief Minister's disqualification period took many by surprise, especially because it closely followed his party's pre-poll alliance with the BJP. Prem Singh Tamang had appealed for the waiver of his disqualification period before the Election Commission under Section 11 of the Representation of the People Act.
Under the tie-up, the BJP will contest from two of the three seats going to the polls while the SKM will field its candidate from one.
The SKM had won 17 of Sikkim's 32 seats in the state assembly polls held earlier this year, defeating Pawan Kumar Chamling's Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) by a narrow margin of two seats. Soon afterwards, the SDF witnessed widespread desertions with 10 MLAs leaving for the BJP and two others shifting allegiance to the SKM. Pawan Kumar Chamling is the lone SDF legislator in the state assembly now.
The BJP and the SKM had fought the state assembly polls separately.