In a historic decision that sent ripples from Dharamshala to Beijing through Delhi, the 14th Dalai Lama on Thursday decided to give up his political role and shift all temporal powers to the prime minister elected by the Tibetan community in exile. The announcement, made at the Tsgulakhang temple , marks a dramatic shift in Tibetan politics as the Dalai Lamas have served as both the spiritual and the political head of the Tibetan people — godking, in short — since the mid-17th century. For long, the Dalai Lama has talked about handing over political power to the exile government. But this time the 76-year-old leader has laid down a timeline. The Dalai Lama’s proposal will be discussed by the Tibetan parliament on March 14. If approved, the post of Kalon Tripa (prime minister of the government-in-exile) will inherit the Dalai Lama’s political powers. The Dalai Lama’s stepping down is likely to trigger an electoral contest for the prime minister’s post between three front-runners, all based abroad. They are, Lobsang Sangay, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School, Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, an academic at Stanford University, and Tashi Wangdi, a Brussels-based civil servant. The election is scheduled for March 20. Thursday’s development also brought attention on the awkward relationship between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities. Not surprisingly, the announcement was met with derision in Beijing. China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the Dalai Lama had often talked about retirement in the past few years. “I think these are his tricks to deceive the international community. The government-in-exile is an illegal political organisation and no country in the world recognises it,” she told reporters. A Nobel peace prize winner, Dalai Lama currently presides over parliament-in-exile meetings. During Thursday’s ceremony, attended by many foreign journalists, he also said that many of his supporters had asked him not to retire.