Bhaichung Bhutia joins ex-CM Pawan Chamling’s party ahead of 2024 polls

Bhaichung Bhutia joins ex-CM Pawan Chamling’s party ahead of 2024 polls

Gangtok, Nov 23 (PTI) Legendary footballer Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday joined the opposition Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) headed by former Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling.

Bhutia also merged the Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP), the outfit he had formed ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha and state assembly elections, with the SDF at a rally in Ravangla in South Sikkim, about 70 km from the state capital Gangtok. The assembly polls in the small Himalayan state, besides the parliamentary elections, are due next year.

Chamling welcomed Bhutia into his party by presenting him a ‘Khada’, a traditional scarf used in Tibetan Buddhism, and an SDF flag while hundreds of the party workers cheered the former Indian football skipper.

Bhutia also heaped praise on Chamling, saying Sikkim needs an experienced leader like him to navigate the state to the path of development and prosperity.

'We will ensure that the five-term chief minister returns to power after the 2024 assembly elections,' he said.

Chamling, the longest-serving chief minister in India, was at the helm in Sikkim between 1994 and 2019. He lost to Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) of present Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang in 2019.

While the SKM won 17 of the 32 seats, the remaining 15 went to the SDF. However, all MLAs of the SDF, except Chamling, joined either SKM or BJP later.

In his address, Bhutia charged Tamang with mismanagement, misrule and corruption.

'The Tamang government has taken loans of Rs 20,000 crore in the past four and half years, but nobody knows as to where all this money has gone,' he alleged.

Bhutia said that it was time to rebuild Sikkim under Chamling's leadership.

Before forming the Hamro Sikkim Party, Bhutia contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Darjeeling and the 2016 Assembly polls from West Bengal’s Siliguri on Trinamool Congress tickets but lost on both occasions.

The Hamro Sikkim Party also did not find favour with the electorate, polling less than two per cent of votes with all its candidates losing their deposits in the 2019 assembly elections. Bhutia had expressed interest in joining the SDF in September. PTI KDK NN

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