Interview | Other States

Centre not fulfilling all of Sikkim’s expectations: Pawan Chamling

Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Sikkim is the most peaceful State and the Centre should consider it for a peace bonus, Pawan Chamling, the State’s longest serving Chief Minister, who has been elected CM five times consecutively since December 1994, said in an interview.

What are your thoughts on being the longest serving Chief Minister?

I never thought I would join politics and come this far. When I became an MLA, I never thought I will become a Minister leave alone Chief Minister. During five consecutive terms as Chief Minister, I have always stood by the people of the State. All I can say is that I have never indulged in negative politics...targeted leaders of the Opposition. The people of Sikkim have blessed me with their support for so many years.

You have worked with eight Prime Ministers, starting from P.V. Narashima Rao to Narendra Modi. Who do you think has been the best Prime Minister?

Vajpayeeji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee), I think… I have great regard for him. When [I] spoke to him, it felt like you were speaking to a saint, not a politician. Once when he was visiting Sikkim, I was addressing a public meeting and raised a demand for ₹1,000 crore for the State, and asked that the Centre accommodate our demand yathasambhav [as much as it can]. When Vajpayeeji rose to speak, he thanked me publicly for using the word (yathasambhav) and said I understood his situation as well.

What are your expectations from the Narendra Modi government?

We have a lot of expectations and I cannot say that all our expectations are being fulfilled. We are getting support as much as is mandated in law, but nothing more than that.

What more do you expect from the Centre?

Sikkim is the most peaceful State of the country and you have to realise that it is a very sensitive State, considering its location, surrounded by Nepal, Bhutan and China. There were years of Maoist movement in Nepal. We insulated the State from that. The issue of Gorkhaland has been raging for 35 years in West Bengal and yet we were able to keep Sikkim peaceful. I have kept Sikkim insurgency-free for 24 years. This is my greatest achievement.

Had Sikkim been an unstable State, imagine how much money and resources the Centre would have to pump in to counter insurgency. Considering this, the Centre should have given a peace bonus to Sikkim. I have raised the issue but do not have any response. The Centre does not give attention to States which do well.

How are your relations with West Bengal?

I have spoken to Mamataji, personally after the Gorkhaland agitation. She is a great leader, Chief Minister of such a large State and I admire her. I am with Mamata Banerjee on the development and peace of Darjeeling.

Sikkim is known for its measures to control pollution and encourage environmental protection. Can you elaborate on this?

We have taken a lot of steps for environmental protection and also tried some innovative means. You must be aware that the Sikkim government was the first to ban plastics. We have decided to allocate 1% of every project for environmental protection.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which side will you support, the BJP-led coalition or the one by Opposition parties?

I am not with anyone. We have only one MP from Sikkim and that is of not much consequence at the national level. We believe in Ekla cholo re (walking alone).

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 10:23:56 AM |

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