GANGTOK: Upping the ante against opposition in the run-up to panchayat polls, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has alleged that the opposition parties were pursuing a "hidden" agenda for merger of Sikkim and Darjeeling hills.
He also urged the indigenous people to foil the "nefarious designs of the political forces from outside".
"I can sense a hidden agenda of the opposition parties to pursue merger of Sikkim and Darjeeling hills which will be detrimental to the interests of the indigenous people," he told an election meeting at Yangyang in his native South District yesterday.
Chamling, who heads the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) ever since its inception in early 1990s, dwelt on consequences of the opposition parties, including one from 'outside' Â– a reference to the BJP - coming to power in Sikkim.
He said the old laws which safeguard the interests of the locals may be scrapped in future by "them".
He told the gathering that it was imperative that the people of Sikkim must continue to repose faith in the SDF for development of the state and welfare of the people.
Defending his party supremo's apprehension about the merger of Sikkim and Darjeeling to resolve prevailing disquiet in the hill districts of West Bengal, SDF spokesperson K T Gyalsten told PTI that Chamling was right in airing his reservation about the merger which, he claimed, was not in the best interests of the Sikkimese.
"The merger of Sikkim and Darjeeling hills will lead to scrapping of Article 371 (F) of the constitution that protects socio-economic, political and cultural interests of the indigenous people comprising Nepalese, Lepcha, Bhutia, business community, among others," he said.
Sikkim retains a number of old laws despite merger with the Union of India more than 40 years ago that may be repealed once Article 371(F) is done away with in the event of merger of the Himalayan state and Darjeeling hills, Gyalsten, a former speaker of the legislative assembly and a lawyer, said.
"Being a border state located close to China, it is imperative that the constitutional sanctity of Sikkim must be maintained," the SDF spokesperson said, adding that the Centre and other stakeholders must try to find a lasting solution to problems of Darjeeling hills, but its merger with Sikkim cannot be one of the solutions.
Stating that Sikkim has been an abode of people with tourism being the cornerstone of its economy, the SDF leader said the opposition parties should try to find out a permanent solution to keep NH-10 -- the sole road connecting it with the rest of the country -- open round the year, instead of harping on needless issues like merger of Sikkim and Darjeeling hills.