Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling is set to become the country's longest serving Chief Minister transcending the late Communist patriarch Jyoti Basu if he wins this year's Assembly polls, for the fifth time in a row.
Leading the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government since December 12, 1994, Chamling has completed 20 years as the CM of the Himalayan state, which had merged with India in 1975.
Basu had created a record of the longest serving chief minister by holding the post in West Bengal for more than 23 years from June 21, 1977 to November 5, 2000 when CPI(M) replaced him with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Chamling will create a new record if he wins the April 12 Assembly polls, being held along with the Lok Sabha election, and retains power for over four years.
"It would be a matter of pride for Sikkim to break Basu's record. We are confident that Chamling will win this time again and create a new record in India," SDF vice president K B Chamling told PTI here.
He said Chamling's popularity has soared further due to his success in developing the state and maintaining it as one of the country's most peaceful places.
A little more than 3,70,000 voters will decide on April 12 whether Chamling can defeat Basu as well as his other rivals.
In the 2009 assembly polls, SDF had won all the 32 seats leaving absolutely no opposition in the House.
This year, anti-incumbency factor is being seen as a major hurdle in Chamling's dream to retain power and celebrate silver jubilee as the chief minister.
Opponents say just the way Trinamool Congress brought change in the neighbouring West Bengal by ousting the Left Front, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) too would win.
"This election is not so easy as they have been in power for a very long time and people want change. We are asking people to give us a chance now," SKM general secretary Jacob Khaling said.
The party was formed last year after SDF MLA Prem Singh Tamang, better known as P S Golay, decided to part ways.
Even former Chief Minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari's party Sikkim Sangram Parishad (SSP), which has not put up any candidate this time, is supporting SKM.
"People here want a change now. If we had contested there would have been a triangular fight and SDF would have got the advantage because of division in opposition votes," Bhandari said.
To defeat Chamling, who was once a minister working under his leadership, Bhandari has declared support for SKM.
"This is the time for SDF to go. A new government will assume power now," he said while accusing SDF of being a corrupt and casteist government.
This election is being fought on issues related to corruption, health, tribal affairs, environment, etc.