Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Battle of political one-upmanship on in Sikkim

Gangtok, May 30: A battle of political one-upmanship is going on between the ruling SDF and a combined opposition in Sikkim with the state government extolling its achievements from every possible forum and the Opposition hurling charges of corruption at it in a bid to undo the hype.

Be it Ambedkar Jayanti or the state day or any other similar occasion, the Chief Minister, Pawan Kumar Chamling, doesn`t let go of the slightest opportunity to flaunt his achievements.

His speeches always revolve around a few pet topics capable of earning him brownie points with the masses such as the opening of the Nathula Pass for border trade with China last year, the empowerment of women or devolution of major powers to the Panchayati Raj institutions in the state.

After talking about the achievements of the past he moves onto disclose his plans for the future such as marketing Sikkim`s floricultural produce in the international market or putting the state on the international tourism map.

However, the opposition invariably barges in on the scene with its allegations about corruption and misrule against the government to ensure that the people don`t get carried away by the latter`s `high-flown rhetoric` on development.

An instance of this was in evidence recently when Congress, the main opposition in the state, brought out a booklet in Nepali titled `Sikkim ma Burma Loot` (Burma loot in Sikkim) in which it accused Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling of amassing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income and his involvement in a number of scams running into crores of rupees.

The booklet was widely distributed among the people throughout the state. The state government, however, remained unfazed and went on with its declarations about how it had put the state on the high trajectory of growth in the last 13 years in office.

The Opposition on the other hand did not stop its tirade and soon after the conclusion of a regional summit on tourism and hospitality sector parties like the Congress, the BJP, the CPM and a few regional outfits jointly shot off a letter to the Governor asking him to act on the charges of corruption against the state government within 72 hours or so.

While the Governor is yet to act on the Opposition`s request the ruling SDF has chosen to remain indifferent and confine itself to talking relentlessly about development.

"It is no mean achievement of our government that today Sikkim is being held out by central leaders as a model state for the rest of the country to follow," Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said at a function held here to celebrate 33 years of the state`s merger with the Indian union.

Chamling also sought to brush aside the opposition`s tirade against the government on this occasion saying that there are some people who cannot even be happy in heaven.

Refusing to attach much importance to the opposition`s allegations, he dwelt at length on the steps taken by his government to empower women and the panchayat bodies in the state and reminded people of the eulogies earned from the Doner minister Mani Shankar Aiyyar who said on a recent visit to the state that all the states in the country should follow the example of Sikkim as far as the functioning of the Panchayati Raj institutions was concerned.

Nathula also continues to be projected in all the Chief Minister`s speeches ever since its opening last year for border trade with China as one of the major achievements of the state government.

However, the more the state government talks about its development endeavours the louder get the opposition`s complaints about corruption in high offices and general misgovernance.