Kohima: From issues concerning the Nagaland-Manipur land dispute to downsizing of the Asian Highway-I along the interstate border, and much more, here’s why former President of the Southern Angami Public Organization (SAPO), apex tribal body of the Southern Angami tribe, Kevipodi Sophie, is joining the 2023 Nagaland Assembly election.

On Monday, Sophie filed his nomination to contest the state Assembly polls from 14-Southern Angami-I as an independent candidate, and later kicked off the political campaign at Jakhama local ground with thousands of locals in attendance. 

“I have been confronted with many issues  especially the so called disputed Kezoltsa. The land belongs to us traditionally even though an imaginary interstate boundary is drawn. The land still belongs to us. I don’t know how much the representative from our constituency has raised this issue in the Assembly and informed our honourable legislators. But once I am elected, I will project and raise this issue because this imaginary line was drawn without consent,” the former tribe leader said. 

He goes on to say that the present National Highway-29, which is also the Asian Highway-I that connects Nagaland with Manipur, was initially proposed to be a 4-lane road project. A memorandum, he said, was submitted to former President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, for a four-lane road project but was later downsized to a two-lane project. 

The project, he highlighted, was later descoped to be taken up within the existing road. 

“So, I feel that we have been neglected for a very long time. We have two representatives from the Southern Angami area but so far no visible scheme or projects our areas. We have resources, land, water, and we are ready to provide but we have been neglected for many years,” the first time candidate said, further adding that once voted to power, the common people will be his priority.

As an independent candidate, Sophie began his campaign with the slogan “The People First”. Other major issues he hopes to address include unemployment among educated youth, assistance for widows, farmers, and so on. 

62-year-old resident of the village Nokehiele Khatso told EastMojo: “If he wins, I have the hope that he will help people-the society, and the Southern Angamis as well. He expressed great concern about the Kezoltsa dispute so we have the hope that he will do his best. For women, widows, elderly persons, educated unemployed, he expressed his concern. He worked with the government and knows of ways and means to help people which is why he must have expressed concern and so with all these hopes on him, we are supporting him.”

GB Jakhama, Kozhol Kirha, shares how people have changed with time. “It is hard to understand and draw conclusions these days as votes could be bought. Our son wanted to contest, and though we are not so sure (about what the result would be), we want to give it a try. Looking at the crowd today, we can see that there are more young educated folks than the older people and therefore seeing such a big crowd we are hopeful that he would be able to pull through,” the 85-year-old said. 

The youth at present, he said, have become well aware of things they can and cannot do.

“People are very educated nowadays and there are many who have cleared their graduation and master’s degree. Their ideas are much better than ours. So if we, the elders, do not regard their ideas then it would be wrong on our part. And since they are visionary, we have high hopes in them,” Kirha added. 

As for first-time-voter, Vithozo Sophie (18), shared his hope for change in the society. “I hope the new government would provide more employment opportunities for the youth. Our candidate is a good man and I am hopeful that he would bring changes to our community, like he assured, in terms of development and addressing unemployment”.

Also Read | Nagaland polls: Kohima BJP candidate Kropol Vitsu files nomination

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