GANGTOK, 11 Apr: Come polling season and the stakes go high, and this time around, the contest is clearly keener than it has been at least in the last decade. The way 3.69 lakh people vote on Saturday is going to play a deciding role in the direction the state takes in the near future and will also be a proclamation and legal stamp given by the people in the direction they want to go.
A total of 118 candidates from 32 constituencies belonging to 5 political parties and Independents will be tested for their political acumen and bankability when it comes to delivering on promises. In addition to this are 6 candidates contesting for the lone Lok Sabha seat.
All political parties including the Sikkim Democratic Front and the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha have encapsulated their programmes and policies in their respective party manifestos; the Congress and the BJP too have distributed their manifestos among the public. It remains to be seen whether the electorate can be swayed by promises contained in party manifestos or convinced by campaign speeches or tantalized by the spectre of change or are comfortable in the domain of stability.
An influential component this election will be the nearly 70,000 new voters. Both the major political parties, the SDF and the SKM have developed their agenda and manifestos with an eye on this chunk of young voters. There is no doubt that this youth brigade can swing the vote and play a decisive influence on the nature of the new government of Sikkim. And it is expected that they will come out in droves to have their first experience of adult franchise.
As it is, Sikkim is known to vote whole heartedly. Last elections Sikkim had among the highest voter turnouts in the country at 81.79% [the highest turnout thus far for Sikkim]. It will not be surprising if Sikkim records a new high in Elections 2014.
The Election Department here has been reasonably proactive in spreading the message of Right to Vote and information dissemination when it comes to voting, ballots, EVMs, voter cards and other paraphernalia related to elections and voting. There have been numerous drives for the enrolment of new voters which saw a few thousand more voters added to the total electorate in just the past few months. Also influential will be the women voters who comprise almost half the electorate at 1.79 lakhs voters in Sikkim with four constituencies – the three in North Sikkim and Namchi Singhithang having more female voters than males.
Polling begins 7 a.m. Saturday and will continue till 5 pm. Two hours additional time has been given for voting by the Election Commission of India this time around.
The commencement of voting will be preceded by a mock drill conducted by the Presiding Officer of the respective polling stations. This drill will be done in front of all candidates and it is to ensure that the EVM used for voting is sound and in good technical condition for the voting process.
There are a total of 538 polling stations this time compared to 493 polling stations last elections. East district has the highest number of polling stations at 180 followed by South district with 154, West with 133 and North district with 44 polling stations.
Rhenock in East District has the highest number of polling stations with 26 followed by its neighbor, Chujachen with 25. Incidentally Rhenock also has the highest number of contesting candidates at 6. Another interesting piece of statistic is that Rhenock also has the second highest number of voters at 15153; the highest belonging to its neighbouring constituency of Chujachen which has 15402 voters.
The least number of polling stations are in Upper Tadong which has only 8. The Sangha seat has 51 polling stations housed in all the empanelled gumpas located throughout the state.
The territorial constituency of Lachen Mangan has the least number of voters with 6868 voters. Sangha constituency has 2904 voting monks.