The Congress candidate for 27 Mokokchung Town AC is campaigning for clean elections, equitable development, and “social change.” Alem Jongshi has been a member of the Congress party since 1979 and remains an ardent supporter.
Alem Jongshi, who was the Deputy Commissioner of Tuensang from 2014 to 2017 and an additional secretary to the Nagaland government in 2017, ran in the 26 Aonglenden AC bye-election in 2019 on a Congress ticket but lost to NDPP’s Sharingain Longkumer.
“I lost the election, but not the principle of being in Congress and that is what matters,” he insisted.
When asked why he decided to run for the 27 Mokokchung Town AC this time, he said it was because of a “certain political arrangement” made by his political party.
His vision on Clean Election
Sharing his idea of Clean Election, he said he had been associating with ABAM and NBCC for the clean election campaign but said Clean election being propagated by the churches, they have their own perspective.
“Aside from churches, my own motivation for joining the clean election campaign is political. Look at the current composition of Nagaland Legislative members,” he added. “Two-thirds of the assembly’s members are debtors, having entered the house with a lot of debt. Another type of the legislators are the rich and the well-off who do not know what poverty is,” he added.
As a result, he asserted that “the first group is generally those looking for the opportunity to amass more money to pay their debt.”
“So, given the circumstances, where is the avenue for looking after the general public in terms of development, social security, and infrastructure development?” he posed.
He maintained that the state is in such a ‘confused state’ that development is being overtaken by those individual interests.
“I am investing in Clean Elections because we have a lot of learned people and people who love to work and serve the people but do not have money. In the current situation, we can understandably say – no money, no assembly. However, through clean elections, those talented individuals will be given a chance – in other words, the right people will be placed in the right positions. So, for that matter, even theologians and missionaries will get their chance,” he said.
He went on to say that when scholars and academicians can enter the assembly hall, that will be the start of the good governance delivery system.
According to him, a clean election begins with clean candidates.
He admitted to hearing people say, “If you don’t spend money, how will you win the election?” to which he said he wishes to bring a ‘total social change’ through clean elections.
“In general, Naga society… Nobody, especially politicians, I believe, thinks about tomorrow. There is a saying in political science that there are two groupe- one, a politician who is always concerned with his position, status, and well-being, but there is another group that is a political leader who always sticks to his political principles and generally talks and thinks about his people for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
“I don’t intend to be in the first group,” he said.
When asked if he believes his opponent is not clean, he said, “I cannot say. People may say many things, but I have yet to see him distribute money. I have no evidence. So it is up to him to prove that he is clean,” he said, adding that clean elections generally do not apply only to the voters.
“A clean election should begin with the candidates. I’m not sure if it’s true, but we’ve heard a lot of rumors about those candidates buying tickets… Is it clean or dirty? Only when the candidate is clean can we insist on a clean election with the voters. That is my interpretation. But I can’t say anything about my opponent because I don’t have any evidence,” he said.
“After the day our scrutiny was finished, I told my opponent Metsubo… Look, I’m a clean election campaigner… you’ve fed the people enough. So I invited him to join me in the clean election to have a better constituency and a state in general. “We had a great time laughing,” he said.
What are the agendas he is campaigning on
Commenting on the general state of affairs, he stated that the Congress party believes that Mokokchung and other districts have been discriminated against in terms of development, and that 95% of the developmental fund is being used in only a few districts.
“The remaining districts were left untouched. There should be no discrimination in terms of development,” he said.
When asked about his personal agenda, he stated that if given the opportunity, his “first and foremost priority” will be to ensure that the Mokokchung people, who have been without drinking water for more than 30 years, will have their needs met.
“My second agenda is infrastructure development, which includes health care, school education, and academic institutions. I’ve noticed that there is nothing like the Mokokchung climatic condition throughout Nagaland,” he said, explaining how the climatic condition benefits school education and health care.
“Aos, we are referred to as pioneers, but look at our educational system. There are 20+ private colleges and polytechnics in Kohima alone, and all of them are profitable, indicating that education has become a business while providing wisdom and knowledge to future generations, but Mokokchung does not have one,” he noted.
He went on to explain how a good healthcare system, such as a 100-bed privately owned hospital, and all related institutions promote unorganized economic activity or auxiliary economic activity by operating hostels, lodges, and so on.
“Infrastructure, specifically school education and healthcare, is a major concern,” he added.
His third concern, he claims, is the promotion of literature.
“People who have started promoting their literature, such as Tenyidie, have gone up to Master’s degree level, whereas in our case (Ao literature), it is only up to BA level, which is also optional, so in that case, we need to promote our literature,” he explained.
Despite some dismissing him as pessimistic, he explained how difficult it is to promote Ao literature.
“The basis of literature of every tribe depends on its history of origin and it is being observed that all other tribes in Nagaland, they have only one ‘Lipok’ or genesis but unfortunately, there are two versions of the origin of the Aos and that is where the division begins and as long as that two versions exist, our promotion of literature will be hindered,” he said, adding that it is a major issue.
As a result, he believes that the ‘meeting point’ of the two version requires special attention and believes tha the development of Ao literature will be hampered “unless we have a meeting point on the origin of the Aos.”
How he sees the role of Congress party as an opposition
On being asked how he got involved in state politics, he said, “towards the fag end of my career, I had no ability to do business after my retirement, I cannot preach like my many other retired friends so I decided to join politics and take advantage of a platform to propagate my message for a social change,” he said, adding how he finds the prevailing social condition not conducive for the ‘modern living’.
He predicted a split verdict this time, stating that the Congress party hopes to win at least 10 to 15 seats out of the 25 candidates.
“We don’t see that the combination of BJP and NDPP will strike back to majority. That is why I feel that there is likely going to be a formation of a third party alliance minus NDPP and BJP,” he said.
Responding to how effective his role will be in case he happened to be an MLA in opposition, he said, “Even if I happen to be an opposition MLA, I will play my role effectively by telling or insisting the ruling government that they are not doing it rightly or misusing the power or that there is misgovernance. As of now, the role of the opposition MLA may not provide much development, but it can insist on those in power and ensure democracy in its truest sense, as well as be a people’s government for the people’s well-being. We have so many roles, but unfortunately, many opposition MLAs waste their time doing nothing.”
Apart from the press releases from NPCC president K Therie, on asking whether he believes the Congress party has maintained silence for too long, he clarified that “majority of the press releases by our president is not of his own but is the collective opinion and executive decision of the Congress party.”
The candidate also admitted to laughing when he saw a newspaper report mentioning that a mere 16 lakhs had been sanctioned for ‘something like Mokokchung Town road renovation’ prior to the Hospital road issue for the year 2021.
He also stated that Assam receives 95% of the funds sanctioned by the Ministry of Finance from the Government of India for the North East, and among the very few we receive, he explained how in one of the fund distribution districts like Mokokchung and Zunheboto recorded nil, “while around Rs. 2,700 crore was spent in Kohima alone; 1,400 something on Phek, and 100 something on Dimapur.”
Speaking on how Mokokchung, being the district with the highest number of constituencies, still gets discriminated against, he said, “As long as we are divided, we cannot talk about development. SC Jamir was the last political leader who could bring legislators together under one platform, and we have seen how development has occurred. Now that we are all divided by representing a variety of political parties, I believe we should unite for the greater good, and I believe Congress is one platform where Mokokchung should come together.”
Explaining why people should vote for him, he said, “Last election Rio’s party said change is coming, but it is up to the people to judge whether change has come or not,” he said, adding, “But to me, change has not reached yet so, if given the opportunity, we want to appeal to the people that change will come.”
“You deposit your precious vote to us, we will give you change in the form of power supply, water supply, infrastructure development, school education and healthcare. We will provide you with change in any form,” he added.