Chamling distributes help to lamas, opposition sees political move

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SUJAL PRADHAN
Gangtok
29 Jun 2018

As a part of Janta Mela and Jan Sampark Abhiyan, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling on Friday handed over GCI sheets and electric cookers to Buddhist monks and also announced assistance to the lamas for house-building.
It was a unique move as hitherto such Janta Melas to distribute government benefits have been restricted to the rural poor; but opposition parties saw in this an attempt by the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front to woo the influential monk community in Sikkim before the assembly election in 2019.
The Janta Mela Cum Jan Samparka Abhiyan for Urban Areas and Lamas(Monks) was organised by the Sikkim Urban Development and Housing Department at Khel Gaon Resithang , Ranka.
Opposition Sikkim Krantikar Morcha slammed the move as dirty politics. “The SDF government is demeaning spiritual leaders by dragging them into politics. The worried chief minister is politicising monks and their issues in a desperate move to win the elections,” alleged Sonam Lama, who had won in the Sangha seat for SKM.
Of the 32 assembly seats in Sikkim, 12 are reserved for Bhutias and Lepchas, most of whom are Buddhists. In Sikkim, the monk population is about 4.000, but there is also one Sangha seat in the state assembly that is reserved for Buddhist monks. Only registered lamas are eligible to vote for this seat. The ruling SDF has never been able to win the Sangha seat.
Though the SDF has been in power in Sikkim since 1994 and Chamling is the longest serving chief minister in the country, opposition parties, too, are gaining in strength. In the assembly election in 2014, SDF lost 10 seats to SKM though seven of these MLAs later joined SDF. The Lama Mela is a unique initiative that comes in the backdrop of the growing popularity of the opposition SKM among Buddhist monks and the newly formed Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) set up by former Indian football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia, a Buddhist.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister, too, did not miss the opportunity to capitalize on the political issue, pointing out that the opposition parties were not in favour of protecting the 13 seats reserved for the Bhutia-Lepcha and the Sangha communities in the state assembly as they were demanding reserved seats for the Limboo-Tamang community from the existing 32 seats.
“This becomes possible only if the number of B-L seats are decreased. The opposition never clarified from where to provide seats to the Limboo-Tamang community; from the 17 general seats, from the 12 seats reserved for the B-L community or from the two scheduled caste seats,” wondered the Chief Minister. “For there only a total of 32 seats in the assembly. We are clear with our stand, but the opposition parties are not. If they are, they can make their stand clear.”
Chamling pointed out that his government had proposed a 40-seat formula. “We have not touched reserved B-L seats, so our proposals are not a harmful for B-L community. So they are safe in our government but not in the opposition's hand,” the Chief Minister pointed out.
“We have given 20 per cent seat reservation for B-L community at panchyats and municipal bodies. In the field of education now students who want to pursue their language Bhutia or Lepcha can take up to Master level courses at Sikkim Central University,” stressed the Chief Minister.
“We have not let an inch of B-L land to be sold and kept them fully protected under the revenue order number 1. The B-L community can stay relaxed under our government as our government has left no stone unturned to safeguard them in the state,” he said.