Sikkim is the least populated stated in India, and one of the more manageable states, in terms of political presence. The landlocked Himalayan Kingdom, post the British pullout of 1947 and prior to formally becoming a part of the Indian Union, retained some measure of autonomy and while India dealt with all matters relating to foreign affairs and the military, the internal governance of the state was left entirely in its own hands with almost little or no central government intervention.
Sikkim became an Indian state on the 16th of May 1975 and post its amalgamation with India it has remained trouble free, and it would be fair to say that the transition has been one of the smoothest to date.
The state is bounded by Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the East, Nepal in the West and West Bengal in the south and south-east. It appears to be, on paper anyway, one of the most politically manageable states in India, and if one intended to stand for elections, as far as India goes, Sikkim would be, one of the better bets.
The two dominant religions in the state are Hinduism and Buddhism, there appears to be very little between them. Sikkim is also one of the most environmentally conscious states in the subcontinent, with an emphasis on being environmentally friendly.
The state has a literacy rate of 83% and is ranked 13th in the all India literacy index. Despite the troubles with cross-border insurgents, and ethic divides which tend to boil over at times, some of the north-eastern states have managed to maintain higher than average literacy rates, and the drop-in population or the smaller population might have something to do with that.
The two major parties in India, the BJP and the INC are active in the state and as far as regional parties go, the biggest regional party in the state is the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) which maintains a healthy margin, it controls 22 of the 33 seats, in the state assembly, and it has one seat in the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha) and one seat in the upper house of parliament (Rajya Sabha), so it is fair to say that the party doesn’t really have much sway or influence outside the state but that doesn’t really make much of a difference and as long as it can govern the state effectively, which at times is too much to ask, the bigger parties can iron out central government policy.
The party has been in power since Sikkim was accorded the status of becoming an Indian state and very little has changed in terms of governance or governing styles and the state rarely makes the headlines, which tends to suggest that whatever it’s doing, it seems to be doing it rather well.
The SDF brand themselves or label themselves as democratic socialists and in its most simple form democratic socialism means that the population collectively owns and controls the means of production, in most instances that means that production is controlled by the state, and the end result is distributed proportionately, usually in the form of underlying social welfare, with emphasis on housing, education and health care, which coincidentally are some of the more pressing issues that need to be addressed in the subcontinent, among the population.
The party however does not seem to be in the good books of West Bengal’s power woman, Mamta Banerjee, the founder/leader of the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), which is listed as one of the minor regional parties in the state. The AITC having firmly established itself in Bengal is seeking to widen or broaden its support base, and is branching out to other states in India, and the party is seeking to make its fervid and fiery brand of politics more palatable nationally.
Take nothing away from them, Bengal is a difficult state to take control of especially in light of the Communist Party of India’s, both Marxist and Maoist, extensive influences there.
The source of the troubles is the spate of unrests in Darjeeling which has resulted in tourists abandoning Darjeeling for Sikkim and an outflow of income derived from tourism which has hit businesses especially those centered around the tourist industry quite hard.
Matters were further exacerbated by the Sikkim Chief Minister’s (Pawan Chamling) support for Gorkhaland, something the AITC is at present for obvious reasons, opposed to. The matter has been the subject of heated debate since it first came up in 1907.
Copyright © 2019 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam