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Prem Singh Tamang: How SKM Boss Cemented His Place As Sikkim Chief Minister

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Much waters have flown down Teesta and Rangeet rivers since Prem Singh Tamang rebelled against the then Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and subsequently formed his own party, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, in 2013.

Fifteen years after quitting the Sikkim Democratic Front in 2009, he decimated Mr Chamling's party, scripting history by winning 31 of 32 assembly seats in the Himalayan state in 2024. Only twice before, in 1989 and 2009, had political parties, the Sikkim Sangram Parishad and the SDF, respectively, registered such landslide victories.

Fifty-six-year-old Tamang, regarded as an able organiser, administrator and fiery politician, rode on a slew of development and welfare measures, besides his own personal charisma, to massively increase his party's seats and vote share.

After having walked out of prison, where he was lodged for one year after being convicted in a corruption case, in 2017, Mr Tamang had revamped his fledging party, which went on to unseat Mr Chamling from power only two years later, winning 17 seats in 2019.

Although SDF had won 15 seats, two party MLAs had won two seats each and had to quit one seat each, effectively putting the party's strength at 13 in the assembly.

Mr Chamling suffered mass desertions of his MLAs, as 10 legislators joined the BJP, while the remaining two switched sides to the SKM, leaving him as the lone representative of his party in the assembly.

Mr Tamang, on the other hand, went on to further consolidate his power and expand his party base and support, focusing on welfare schemes targeted at women and weaker sections and implementing development work with generous funding from the Centre as he stitched an alliance with the BJP. The coalition, however, collapsed ahead of the 2024 assembly polls over the seat-sharing issue.

Born to Kalu Singh Tamang and Dhan Maya Tamang on February 5, 1968, he had graduated from a college in Darjeeling in neighbouring West Bengal and became a teacher in a government school in 1990.

However, he quit his job only three years later and in 1994, co-founded the SDF, with which he remained associated for nearly 20 years, of which he was a minister for 15 years, before floating his party in 2013. The SKM won 10 seats in the 2014 assembly elections.

After having fallen out with Mr Chamling, Mr Tamang had ploughed a lonely furrow in Sikkim politics, inviting the wrath of his former mentor as he was booked in a corruption case in which he was convicted to one year imprisonment following which he was disqualified from the state assembly as an MLA from Upper Burtuk seat.

After winning the 2019 polls, the bar on him to occupy a public post was removed by the central government, following which he took oath as the chief minister on May 27 that year and won a by-election five months later from Poklok-Kamrang constituency, ironically a seat vacated by Mr Chamling.

Five years down the line, the fortunes of the two leaders have changed drastically, with Mr Tamang winning from Rhenock and Soreng-Chakung constituencies by thumping margins, while Mr Chamling met his political waterloo by losing both seats, Namcheybung and Poklok-Kamrang.

The drubbings may mark the end of Mr Chamling's four-decade-long public life during which he had served as a five-term chief minister to leave Mr Tamang as the new satrap of Sikkim.

The SKM boss, however, has also expressed his wish before the electorate to not remain in public life after serving two terms as the chief minister and to hand over the reins of the party to the next line of leadership.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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