32-Sangha constituency: Sikkim’s intangible seat, where only monks contest and vote

3,293 voters are there in the segment sans shape or size.

April 03, 2019 10:21 pm | Updated September 28, 2023 02:41 pm IST - Gangtok

Sonam Lala, Sangha MLA.

Sonam Lala, Sangha MLA.

On April 11, when the Himalayan State of Sikkim goes to the polls, elections will be held in a unique Assembly constituency that does not exist on the State’s map and has no geographical boundaries.

“The 32-Sangha Assembly constituency has no geographical boundary and it is only one-of-its-kind constituency in the country reserved for the monastic community (Sangha),” the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Sikkim states on its website.

Buddhist monks registered with 51 monasteries in the State are the only ones who can contest and cast their votes for the unique Assembly seat. R. Telang, CEO of Sikkim, said that the number of voters for the Sangha seat this year is 3,293, which includes 3,224 (monks) and 69 (nuns).

Three EVMs

“In 51 polling stations, arrangements are being made for casting vote for the Sangha seat,” the CEO said. “Along with one EVM for Assembly seat, and one for Lok Sabha seat, there will be third EVM for monks to cast votes on the Sangha seat,” he added. The 3,293 monks can vote at the EVMs designated for the Lok Sabha seat and for the Sangha seat in these 51 polling stations, he added. Elections to the State’s 32 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha constituency would be held simultaneously on April 11.

Centuries-old tradition

Sonam Lama, who won the Assembly seat in 2014 as a representative of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), said that the seat draws its origin from hundreds of years of tradition.

“Before 1975, when Sikkim became part of India, the State had a monarchy,” said Mr. Lama. “The Ministers to the king were selected from both common people and priests,” he added.

Tshering Lama, who is contesting the seat as a candidate of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), said that references to representation of Lamas (monks) in the council of ministers dated back to 1640 under the Chogyal kings of the State. Experts say the separate electorate for monks of the 51 registered monasteries in the Sangha seat is provided for under article 371 (F) of the Constitution, which has separate provisions with respect to the State of Sikkim.

Three-cornered contest

In the 2014 Assembly polls, the SKM candidate had won the seat by a margin of only 126 votes.

With one of the lowest numbers of voters, the Sangha Assembly seat is one of the closely contested seats of Sikkim. Other than candidates from SKM and SDF, Karma Tashi Bhutia from Congress is also in the electoral fray in this seat.

All three candidates are reaching out to the monks residing in monasteries across the State with promises to bring the Karmapa to Sikkim and serve the religion. On April 11, the monks would take a break from their spiritual routines and chanting of prayers to elect their representative.

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