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Sikkim CM, SDF chief among 146 candidates in fray for Assembly elections

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GANGTOK, April 18: Sikkim chief minister and SKM supremo Prem Singh Tamang, former CM and SDF chief Pawan Kumar Chamling are among the 146 candidates in fray for 32 assembly seats which will go to the polls on Friday amid elaborate security arrangements in the Himalayan state.

Tamang, who is spearheading the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM)’s bid to retain power, is contesting from two assembly seats, Rhenock in Gangtok district and Soreng-Chakung in his native Soreng district.

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The SKM chief who is seeking a seventh consecutive term as MLA, is locked in a multi-cornered contest in both assembly constituencies with former minister and SDF nominee Som Nath Poudyal being his main challenger in Rhenock assembly constituency, while SDF candidate AD Subba is his main opponent in Soreng-Chakung assembly constituency.

The SKM supremo’s wife Krishna Kumari is contesting from Namchi-Singhithang assembly constituency where she is locked in a quadrangular contest in which the SDF has put up Bimal Rai.

Sikkim Democratic Front chief Pawan Kumar Chamling is seeking a record ninth term as MLA. He is contesting from two assembly constituencies, Poklok-Kamrang in Namchi district and Namcheybung in Gangtok district.

The 74-year-old Chamling is facing former bureaucrat and SKM nominee Raju Basnet, besides two women candidates, Pooja Sharma (BJP) and Severine Rai (CAP-Sikkim) in a quadrangular contest in Namcheybung assembly constituency.

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In Poklok-Kamrang assembly constituency, the SDF patriarch is locked in a quadrangular contest with Bhoj Raj Rai of SKM being the other main candidate.

SDF vice president and the former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia is trying his luck from Barfung (BL) seat in Namchi district where he is being challenged by the SKM’s RD Bhutia in a quadrangular contest. Sikkim unit BJP president and the sitting MLA D R Thapa is contesting from Upper Burtuk assembly constituency where the SKM’s Kala Rai is other prominent candidate.

The SKM and SDF have put up candidates on all 32 assembly seats followed by BJP (31), CAP-Sikkim (30) and Congress (12).

For the lone Lok Sabha seat in Sikkim which will also go to the polls on Friday, sitting MP Indra Hang Subba, former MP PD Rai, BJP’s DC Nepal and Gopal Chhetri (Congress) and Bharat Basnet (CAP-Sikkim) are the main contenders among 14 candidates.

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An estimated 4.64 lakh electorate, comprising 2,32,381 male voters and 2,31,545 female will be eligible to exercise their franchise to elect 32 MLAs and the lone Lok Sabha MP.

There are 2,502 third-gender voters, while 4,192 voters belong to Persons with Disabilities (PwD) category and 2,473 voters are senior citizens above 85 years.

The Election Commission has arranged for Assured Minimum Facilities along with accessibility-friendly infrastructure for PwDs and senior citizens in all polling stations, according to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) D Ananadan.

There are a total of 573 polling stations comprising 88 polling stations in urban areas and 485 in rural areas.

Adequate CAPF forces and micro-observers will be deputed at critical polling stations which will also have webcasting arrangements, the CEO said.

The CEO said that 32 all-women polling teams have been set up in Sikkim, while six model polling stations too have been set up for the convenience of voters.

Anandan said that 81 sector magistrates, 71 sector police officers, 97 flying squads, 89 static surveillance teams, 62 video surveillance teams and 32 assistant expenditure observers have been appointed to maintain law and order and enforce the model code of conduct.

Meanwhile, Sikkim Governor Lakshman Prasad Acharya has urged the people of Sikkim to turn out in large numbers at polling booths to exercise their franchise on April 19.

“To vote is not only our right but duty too,” he said in a message. (PTI)

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