A war of words erupted between the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) and the opposition Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) over the "inordinate delay" in reserving Assembly seats for Limboo and Tamang communities, which form over 30 per cent of Sikkim's population.
SDF supremo and Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling had asserted in 2014 that he would resign if the two communities were not allotted reserved seats before the 2019 Assembly polls, a commitment that has now come to haunt him, with the SKM posting a clipping of his statement, published in a newspaper, on the social media.
The Limboo and Tamang communities, granted tribal status in 2002 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government, have long been seeking reservation in the 32-member House, in line with the Lepchas and the Bhutias.
Although there is no provision for seat reservation in the Sikkim Assembly for the scheduled tribes, the Lepchas and Bhutias have been granted 12 seats under Article 371(F) of the Constitution, which protects the rights of the local people.
A petition was moved in the Supreme Court by the tribal groups, seeking adequate representation in the Assembly. The apex court on January 4, 2016 directed the Home Ministry to take necessary action.
Chamling, in his attempt to skirt the issue, alleged that the opposition parties have "misled the NDA government" on the issue.
"We will continue to work hard to ensure that the Limboo and Tamang communities get their dues. No matter which government comes to power at the Centre, we will persuade it to enact a legislation to grant the constitutional right of the two tribal communities," Chamling, who is seeking a record sixth consecutive term for his party, said recently.
P D Rai, a Lok Sabha MP of the SDF, blamed the Centre for the "inordinate delay".
"It is the Centre who is to be blamed for the inordinate delay in granting the communities their rights. This time, too, we have included the issue in our party's manifesto," he said on Saturday, adding that the SDF, if elected to power, will "vigorously pursue" the matter with the central government.
The SKM, however, pinned blame on the SDF, a member of the BJP-led Northeast Democratic Alliance, claiming that the ruling party failed to live up to its promises.
"The SDF had made a firm commitment to give the tribal communities their dues, but could not deliver They (SDF) should take the blame for the delay in granting Limboos and Tamangs their rights," Jacob Khaling Rai, the spokesperson of opposition SKM, said. PTI KDK
Election to the 32-member Assembly and one Lok Sabha seat will be held in Sikkim on April 11.