STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Gangtok, 9 March
Hinting that the upcoming elections will the last ones he will be fighting, former Sikkim chief minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari today said his party, Sikkim Sangram Parishad (SSP), is open to electoral alliance for the polls in the state.
He, however, said his party will not extend the olive branch first, but accept a proposal of any party to form such an alliance. Addressing a press conference here, Mr Bhandari also said he sees “no hope” for Baichung Bhutia, who has been fielded as a candidate by Trinamul Congress for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.
“It is very unfortunate that he (Mr Bhutia), the son of the soil, is contesting the polls from Darjeeling. Had he wished, we would have given him a ticket here as he is an asset of Sikkim,” Mr Bhandari said.
On the electoral alliance, he said: “Our doors are open. Let them come. But we are not going to accept any criminal political party, while the alliance will be against the ruling party (Sikkim democratic Front).”
Criticising the Congress-led central government for “ignoring the Sikkimese issue,” Bhandari, who is also the former president of Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee, said a change in guard is a must at the Centre.
“The Congress is not going to fulfill any demand made by Sikkim, nor will it ever grant (a separate state of) Gorkhaland in the Darjeeling Hills. We want  the NDA government at the Centre,” he said.
“If the government at the centre changes, our long-pending demand for the 17th Karmapa to return to the Rumtek Dharma Chakra will be met,” the former CM said.
According to him, his party is all geared up to field candidates in all the 32 constituencies in the state for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
“Sikkim is burning politically and there is no peace here. Most of the youths have their names in the criminal diary today,” he said.
Asked if the SSP demands Presidential rule in the state during the elections, Mr Bhandari said such a thing will not happen even if he wishes so.
          “The congress at the centre has the will to enforce such  rule and it will not do so because it favours Pawan Chamling (current CM). “however, if there is no Presidential rule here, there will be no free and fair elections,” he claimed.