10 SDF MLAs Change Sides Making BJP Principal Opposition in Sikkim

As many as 10 MLAs of the Sikkim Democratic Front joined the BJP on Tuesday, 13 August, propelling the saffron party to the status of the main opposition in a state where it had not won a single seat in the recent assembly polls.

The MLAs met BJP working president JP Nadda and joined the party in the presence of its general secretary, Ram Madhav, who is in charge of the party’s affairs in the north east.

Madhav told reporters that the SDF had a strength of 13 MLAs and its legislature party decided to merge with the BJP.

Two-thirds or more MLAs of a party can join a new party without violating the anti-defection law.

“The BJP will play the role of a constructive opposition in the state”, Madhav said.

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.

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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, and three-term MLA Ugen Gyatso.

Lepcha said they were impressed with the "Look East" policy of the Narendra Modi government, as he highlighted that his state is surrounded by China, Bhutan and Nepal.

This is the first time that the MLAs of a regional party in Sikkim have joined a national party "en bloc", he said.

"We want lotus to bloom in Sikkim," he said, referring to the BJP's election symbol.

The BJP's immediate challenge in the state will be the by-elections to three seats.

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