CPM, BJP, Congress stay away from Sikkim rural polls

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Gangtok, Nov 3: The CPI(M) and BJP decided against fielding candidates in the Sikkim panchayat elections that were being held on Saturday for they were apprehensive of threats from the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), the ruling party and a strong force in these parts. The Congress has also decided not to contest the polls saying it did not have adequate time to prepare itself.

Elections were being held at 420 gram panchayat wards and 70 zilla panchayat seats. However, 566 gram panchayats and 38 zilla panchayat seats were announced uncontested for only the SDF fielded candidates at those centres.

The CPI(M) said it decided to refrain from the polls for it did not want a repeat of 2007 when SDF supporters allegedly threatened them. The party's central committee has instead decided to back the Independents this time.

The CPI(M), it is learnt, has backed Independents in 10 gram panchayat wards in this election. The BJP also cited a similar reason for not taking part in the polls. The party is supporting 40 Independents, 30 in gram panchayats and 10 in zilla panchayat wards. State party chief Padam Chettri said they were confident of winning six zilla parishad and 20 gram panchayat wards.

The Congress, on the other hand, said it did not get enough time for preparation for the polls were declared just about a month ago. It, however, did not reveal the number of Independents it decided to back.

The state election commission said Sikkim has 176 gram panchayats that make up 987 wards. While only the SDF fielded candidates in 566 wards, the SDF and Independents (one in each ward) were contesting in 420 wards. Out of 108 zilla parishads, the SDF had already won 38 seats unopposed.

A total of 2,20,646 voters including 1,05,628 women were casting their ballots in Saturday's polls. This year, 50 per cent of the gram and zilla panchayat wards have been reserved for women. Nearly, 1,390 electronic voting machines are being used in the polling. The voting started at 8 am and will continue till 5 pm. The campaigning for the polls ended on Oct 31 while the results will be declared on Nov 5.

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