GANGTOK, April 10 � Campaigning for the 32 Assembly seats and the lone Lok Sabha seat in Sikkim for which polling would be held on April 12 ended this evening.
With support growing for the newly-formed Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), the ruling party Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) would have a tough fight to stay in power after a 20-year uninterrupted rule.
The outgoing Assembly was without any opposition and if Chief Minister Pawan Chamling celebrated his silver jubilee then he would be on his way to becoming India�s longest-serving Chief Minister beating the record of late CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu.
There are 121 contestants for the 32 Assembly seats and six for the Lok Sabha seat.
SKM leader Prem Singh Tamang, known as PS Golay, is a major contender for the top post in the Himalayan State.
After parting from Chamling last year to form his new party, he was contesting from Namthang-Rateypani seat in South Sikkim district. SDF�s sitting Minister Tilu Gurung will put up a fight against him from the seat.
Chamling would be contesting from two places � Namchi-Singhithang and Rangang-Yangang. In Tumen-Lingi seat, SDF�s chief whip Ugen T Gyatso Bhutia would fight against political newbie Nidup Tshering Lepcha.
Other prominent candidates included SKM�s Bharati Sharma from Soreng-Chakung seat. Issues related to ecology and protection of the old laws of Sikkim were at the forefront of the political debate during elections.
The Buddhist minority wanted their Karmapa to be enthroned in his seat in Rumtek monastery while the Nepali community, which form almost half of the populace, are seeking tribal status.
SDF�s slogan was peace, security and development while the SKM wanted to make hay riding on the anti-incumbency factor.
During campaigning, a few cases of violence were reported for the first time in the last two decades from the otherwise peaceful State.
According to official figures, two persons were killed in political clashes in the last two months and at least 40-45 injured while a number of vehicles were torched.
Large political meetings were limited only to heavyweights like the Chief Minister. Electioneering was largely done by door to door meetings by candidates and party workers.
Out of the 32 Assembly seats two were reserved for SC while 12 were meant for the Bhutia and Lepcha communities. More than 2,900 monks from over 100 monasteries would choose one among three Lamas contesting for the �Sangha� seat, unique to the State.
Congress is also contesting all the seats, while BJP is fighting in 13 seats and Trinamool seven. Besides, there are five independents contesting the Assembly polls.
In the Lok Sabha seat, SKM�s Tek Nath Dhakal would give sitting SDF MP Prem Das Rai a tough fight. BJP, Congress, Trinamool and Aam Aadmi Party also put candidates, but are not considered factors.
An electorate of 3,70,731 including 1,79,650 female voters were expected to cast their votes in 538 polling booths where around 3,228 polling personnel would be deployed.
With only 121 voters, Gnathang-Machong in East Sikkim had the lowest number of voters while Temi Namthing of South Sikkim the largest with 1,450 voters.
Security would be provided by 3,500 policemen and 15 companies of the West Bengal police. � PTI