“Restoration of democracy to Sikkim is our greatest achievement”Apr 26th, 2009 | By Elections2009 | Category: Interviews
Pawan Chamling, Sikkim Chief Minister for the past 15 years and president of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front, is confident of a record fourth term in office. In an interview to MARCUS DAM he says that though he is largely satisfied with his government’s performance, it could have been better. The new-look government he is looking forward to leading is one that ushers in “change” as well as being “smart.” He gives himself six out of 10 when assessing his own performance.
How do you rate your government’s performance over the past 15 years?
Overall I am happy because we have been able to do a lot for the people of Sikkim. People seem to be satisfied with my performance and work. This time also I believe we are going to win the elections.
But much more could have been done?
True, I could not achieve 100 per cent of the goals I had set for myself. There is more to do; things remain incomplete. There were also certain shortcomings in my government that prevented us from fulfilling some of our responsibilities. But I intend to correct the reasons behind such shortcomings and I am determined my next government will complete the work that is pending.
Why couldn’t you accomplish what you wanted to after coming to power for a third time in 2004?
One is that my teamwork was not as good as I would have liked it to be. In a democracy, there is a need for good teamwork. Some of my colleagues fell short of fulfilling their responsibilities.
It has not been very long since democracy came to Sikkim. That is why even though the government was democratically elected, the mentality of some in it is may be not truly democratic. Democracy is more than a system of governance. It is a way of life and of thought.
As for governance, we hope to fully democratise the new government this time around… systemise democratic values and principles. Set up a government that is smart, that is pro-people.
Yet, in the larger context, my government considers the restoration of democracy in Sikkim as our greatest achievement. The dictatorial system of the regimes that preceded us [the SDF first assumed power in 1994] had left the State in a condition of paralysis. Fear psychosis was widely prevalent. We have brought back the rule of law and the freedom of expression and movement in the State.
Our task to integrate Sikkim emotionally with the rest of India seems to have been achieved over the past 15 years.
Why have nine Ministers and 20 MLAs been dropped from the candidates list?
It was in response to the public demand for change. We have also given priority to young blood and party cadres who have been working at the grassroot level for years. Those who have not been given tickets will work to further strengthen the party.
Despite this there has been no sign of dissent — somewhat unusual?
It proves that the Sikkim Democratic Front is democratic and disciplined. It provided the party a test from which it has come out well.
The Opposition is marginalised in Sikkim. It had just one member in the last State Assembly. Does this bode well for democracy?
You might consider this sad for democracy. It is unfortunate that we do not have a constructive Opposition.
The main reason for not having a credible Opposition is that the parties have failed to recognise the needs, problems and demands of the people.
That is why all the Opposition parties have fallen in public esteem. They have served the interests of their leaders not the people.
The lack constancy, programmes, ideology, and policy. They are unable to win over the confidence of the people.
Your critics describe you as an autocratic leader and dub your party a single-person party.
I am aware of this criticism. But it is not so. I have earned the confidence and gained the faith of the people as I have worked with sincerity and honesty. I have provided them with a strong leadership. My vision is that of ‘Sikkim rajya’ and politics to me is a mission.
People have accepted me as a leader but I have a team that has adopted an agenda not just of economic development that can be measured in per capita income and gross domestic product terms but one that seeks to elevate the level of happiness of the people. The ultimate goal of development is happiness. I am working towards that but the road is a long one.
Finally, how many marks out of 10 would you give yourself if you were to examine your performance as the Chief Minister?
I will give myself six. But I am not satisfied. I will keep working towards achieving a 10.