By bappaditya paul
The Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), the ruling party in the tiny state of north-east India, has decided to back UPA candidate Mr Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential election.
This came even after the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) ~ another important regional party from north-east ~ recently declared to extend support to the former Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr Purno Agitok Sangma, for the country’s top post. Being a tribal and belonging to the north-east, Mr Sangma is a natural choice, the AGP said; raising speculation that other parties from the region might also support the “son-of-the-soil”.
But the Sikkim’s ruling party, SDF, today clarified they are with Mr Mukherjee. “Even before the UPA announcing its nominee for the President’s post, our party chief and the Sikkim chief minister, Mr Pawan Kumar Chamling assured Mrs Sonia Gandhi of our support. Notwithstanding Mr Sangma’s candidature, we have not changed our position,” the SDF Lok Sabha MP and spokesperson Mr Prem Das Rai said over the phone from Delhi.
In fact, the secretary of the SDF will be one of the proposers when the UPA candidate files his nomination papers on 28 June for the Presidential poll.
Explaining the decision, Mr Rai said, they decided to support Mr Mukherjee as he is one of the “tallest and experienced politicians” that the country presently has. “Mr Mukherjee understands the nitty-gritty of our federal structure very well and his getting elected to the country’s top post will further solidify India’s national integrity. The second reason for backing him is the fact that the SDF has been a part of the UPA-II since inception and there had been no reason in the past two years, whatsoever, for us to fall apart.”
All the 32 MLAs in Sikkim Assembly belong to the SDF. Besides this, the party has one Rajya Sabha and one Lok Sabha MP. All of them are eligible to vote in the Presidential election.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 26 June 2012.)