Church mourns ex-Sikkim CM Bhandari
Darjeeling — Catholic Church of Sikkim under the care of Darjeeling diocese mourned death of three times Sikkim Chief Minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari who died on Sunday, 16 July at a hospital in New Delhi following cardiac arrest. He was 77.
Speaking to Matters India Bishop Stephen Lepcha of Darjeeling said, “Untimely death of Mr Bhandari is a personal loss for me with whom I had frequent interactions as well as great loss for the Church in Sikkim which he helped immensely. I have asked my priests in the diocese (including Sikkim) to offer prayers and if possible attend the funeral.”
Mr. Bhandari during his tenure in office invited and granted land to the church to start schools in Geyzing and Malbassey which is now run by Salesian Sisters and Fathers respectively.
In Namchi a Public School was given to the diocese which is now run by Jesuits.
Bishop recalled with gratitude other instances when Mr Bhandari had granted educational subsidy for schools.
Speaking to Matters India Salesian provincial of Calcutta Dr (Fr) Nirmol Gomes expressed his shock and uttered a prayer “May his soul rest in peace.”
Recalling Mr Bhandari’s personal efforts and contribution to bring quality education to the people of his constituency and native village Malbassy in West Sikkim Fr Gomes who spent several years in Salesian College Sonada in Darjeeling diocese recalled Mr Bhandari “as a good friend, benefactor and initiator of Don Bosco Malbassy. He not only invited us but also gave us land and helped us in many ways at the early stages”
Bhandari is survived by his wife, a former Lok Sabha parliamentarian Smt Dil Kumari Bhandari, two daughters, and a son.
Mr Bhandari was the founder-leader of the Sikkim Sangram Parishad party.
Bhandari was in power in the tiny Himalayan state between 1979 and 1994 and the first Gorkha politician to lead an Indian state.
“Yes, our leader died today (Sunday) at the Primus hospital,” a senior official posted at the Sikkim House said.
“He was admitted for a spinal problem. He underwent surgery a few days ago that was performed by Dr A.K. Jaishwar. However, he suffered cardiac arrest and died around 4.30 p.m.,” the official said.
The body of Bhandari, one of the longest serving Chief Ministers in the country, will be taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for embalming and later to Sikkim House.
Bhandari was born on October 5, 1940, in Malbasey village, near Soreng, in west Sikkim.
Bhandari began his political career in Darjeeling in 1967 by joining Tarun Sangha.
Once appointed as the party General Secretary in 1967 in Darjeeling, Bhandari later returned to his native place in Soreng, joined government service and started teaching.
He resigned from his job and joined Sikkim’s pro-democracy movement. In 1974, Bhandari formed the Sikkim United Independent Front Party.
Later, he formed the Sikkim Janata Parishad in October 1977. Under his leadership, the party won 16 seats in the 1979 General Elections. He became the second Chief Minister of Sikkim on October 18, 1979.
In 1984, he dissolved the Sikkim Janata Parishad and formed a new party called Sikkim Sangram Parishad, and won the elections again to become the Chief Minister.
In 1989, Bhandari’s party won all seats in the assembly, again making him the Chief Minister for the third time.
He also briefly served as an Independent Member of Parliament from Sikkim in the 8th Lok Sabha.