10 of 13 SDF MLAs join BJP in Sikkim

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13

With as many as 10 MLAs of the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) joining the BJP today, the saffron party’s strength in the state Assembly rose to 11 and thereby it acquired the status of the main Opposition in the state.

The MLAs, who met BJP working president JP Nadda, joined the party in the presence of its general secretary in-charge of affairs in the North-East Ram Madhav.

Madhav said: “The SDF had a strength of 13 MLAs and its legislature party decided to merge with the BJP. We will now play the role of a constructive Opposition in the Assembly.”

Two-thirds or more numbers of the MLAs of a party can join a new party without violating the anti-defection law. The SDF, headed by Pawan Kumar Chamling, ruled the state for over 25 years, making him the longest-serving Chief Minister of the country but he lost power in the recent elections.

The party won 15 seats, while its rival Sikkim Krantikari Morcha won 17 in the 32-member Assembly. Since two of the SDF MLAs had won from two seats, they resigned from one seat each, reducing the party’s strength to 13 in the Assembly.

The MLAs who joined the BJP include Dorjee Tshering Lepcha, who served as a minister in the Chamling government for three times and is a five-term MLA.

Lepcha said they were impressed with the “look East” policy of the Narendra Modi government, as he highlighted that his state was bounded by China, Bhutan and Nepal. He also said that this was the first occasion when MLAs of a regional party in Sikkim had joined a national party “en bloc”. “We want lotus to bloom in Sikkim,” he said, referring to the BJP’s election symbol.

Madhav said the BJP would play the role of a constructive Opposition in the state. The BJP's immediate challenge in the state will be the byelections to three seats.

In Gangtok, the SDF leadership said it would prefer to wait and watch now as the situation is "complex", while the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) refrained from commenting on the development. (With PTI inputs)

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