Nar Bhadur Bhandari, President of Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee tells isikkim.com Residential Certificate should be withdrawn in national interest.
15 years as CM and 16 years in Opposition. How has the journey of three decades in politics been?
I was elected as CM from 1979 to 1994, three consecutive terms. I was MLA for 25 years and MP for some time. This is almost 37 years of my politics. My political career was full of struggles. I first became Chief Minister in 1979 and continued till 1984. Then I formed my own party Sikkim Sangram Parishad and under my leadership the party made a landslide victory in the assembly election then. I again became CM in the year 1989. In 1994 my government was dismissed illegally and unconstitutionally. I was compelled to merge my regional party with Indian National Congress. I faced lot of allegations and false charges and went to jail also. But I always stood for the people of Sikkim and worked for their welfare.
Why have you always been at the center of controversies?
Sikkim was merged with India in 1975. There was a special provision in the constitution of India under article 371F which was one of the conditions for the merger. But in 1978 the Janta Party at Center violated the 371F. They reduced the Bhutia-Lepcha seats and abolished the Nepali seats. Nar Badhur fought against this.
Another point was the issue of left out persons in Sikkim. There were people who were entitled to get the Sikkim Subject Certificate but because of their ignorance and lapses of government they couldn’t get it. I fought for their rights and during PM V.P. Singh government this issue was amicably settled.
I also fought for the permission to allow people from friendly nations to visit Sikkim. The central government tried to enforce Direct Income Tax act 1961 on Sikkim. I did not allow as it was breach of article 371F and went to Supreme Government. The court gave verdict in our favour. So, these issues made me famous in Sikkim but infamous at center.
There is also controversy going between you and Mr. K.N Upreti.
No, that is not a controversy. If you look at the history of Congress party, dissidence is the culture of Congress. I am the President of SPCC from 2003 and everything was going smoothly. But then ruling party injected the dissidents to create troubles in SPCC. This group is led by K.N. Upreti. But now this group has no locus standi as they are no more part of Congress. Their movement is anti Congress.
What are they asking for?
Constitution of Congress says that for the President post there should be elections. There cannot be any other process. The elections took place on 17th October and I was elected unopposed. If he wanted to be the President he should have contested he elections. But he didn’t even file his nomination papers. For the election of executive council the same procedure follows and there also he did not file his paper. Instead he disappeared and declared in the local media that he will run a parallel SPCC which is not possible as per the Congress party constitution.
Is there any action being taken against him?
Party will take disciplinary actions against him because of his statements. Party will meet on 20th Nov and there we will discuss it and disciplinary committee will take the full and final decision. We need to convey this decision to central leadership too.
Why have you failed in bringing Congress to power despite the remarkable performance of the party in the rest North East States?
When I took the charge of President of Congress there were only two members. In 2004 when general and assembly elections held, they were not free and fair. In the Indian political history EVMs were introduced but in Sikkim these voting machines were tampered and 8 machines were missing from the custody of government. Lot of money power and interference was used by the ruling party of the state.
In 2009 election Governor and all the Central agencies felt that alteast 24 seats were in pocket of Congress. But when counting happened after the 15 days of elections the result was just opposite. If you look at the election history of Sikkim you will be surprised to know that whenever elections were held under President Rule Sikkim witnessed free and fair elections.
What is your stand on Residential Certificate initiative by the state government?
We are all against it. This is a gimmick of a ruling party driven by vote bank politics. I am the Chief Coordinator of Sikkim Bachao Samiti and we called on the Governor. We made him aware about this and its consequences. Sikkim citizenship is Central subject and state government has nothing to see in it. The issue was closed by the Central Government in 1989 when left out people were included. We oppose it and consider it unlawful and violation against article 371f. This notification should be withdrawn in national interest.
Was mergering with Congress party a good decision of your political career?
It has been a bumpy ride with the Congress party but in such decisions I am not the only decision maker. I need to think for my people and for the welfare of Sikkimese. Peace is must in Sikkim and we will do whatever it takes to maintain this peace and tranquility.
Any plans to seek role in Central Leadership.
Once Rajiv Gandhi ji did ask me whether i am interested in going outside Sikkim. I said to him that I am for the people of Sikkim, born and brought up here and will die in Sikkim.