As many as 10 MLAs of the Sikkim Democratic Front joined the BJP on Tuesday, 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. In Gangtok, the SDF leadership said it would prefer to wait and watch now as the situation is "complex", while the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) refrained from commenting on the development.
The MLAs met BJP working president J P 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.
The BJP is running government as the main party or in alliance with regional parties in all the northeastern states except Sikkim and this development has pushed the party closer to power there as well. Two-thirds or more numbers of the MLAs of a party can join another party without violating the anti-defection law.
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 polls. The party won 15 seats while the SKM 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.
"We want to wait and watch the situation now. The issue is complex. We can neither welcome it, nor condemn it outrightly without giving consideration to the circumstances in which this development has taken place," senior SDF leaders P D Rai and K T Gyaltsen told a press conference at Gangtok. They, however, did not elaborate on why the issue is complex.
The two added that the party will remain alive under Chamling's leadership and continue to serve the people of Sikkim. The SDF was a saffron ally earlier but now the ruling SKM has replaced it as a member of the BJP-headed North East Democratic Alliance.
The switching sides of the SDF MLAs may alter the relationship between the SKM and the BJP. Chief Minister and SKM president Prem Singh Tamang aka Golay has visited New Delhi on several occasions to strengthen friendship with the BJP top brass. 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" of the Narendra Modi government, as he highlighted that his state is bounded by China, Bhutam and Nepal. This is the first time that MLAs of a regional party in Sikkim has joined a national party "en bloc", he said.
The BJP's immediate challenge in the state will be the byelections to three seats..
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)