Former CM KL Chishi (left) holding out his party ticket to contest from Nagaland as the lone Lok Sabha seat candidate. 

Kohima: After a setback of almost 17 years, the Congress is hopeful of making a comeback to state with former chief minister KL Chishi contesting from the only Lok Sabha seat in the state.

Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) president Kewekhape Therie, in the presence of all state party workers, handed the Indian National Congress (INC) tickets to the nominated candidates at Congress Bhawan in Kohima on Thursday.

Former chief minister Chishi who will be contesting for the lone Lok Sabha seat said he was shocked when the party nominated him as the contestant for the forthcoming elections, as,he had only recently joined back Congress after “a lapse of one year”.

Declaring his candidature legally, Chishi said that besides the party manifesto, his first priority is to educate the Parliamentarians about the existence of Nagas and to strongly voice the need to settle the “seven-decade-old Naga political issue”.

Putting his faith in Congress, Chishi said since Nagaland has only one Lok Sabha seat, the Naga issue needs to be raised by a national party, which is INC. Chishi had recently quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to rejoin Congress.

Chishi also strongly opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 stating that the “pride of the Nagas will be gone” if it is passed. Chishi then expressed concern about the growth of youth unemployment in the state and criticised the ruling government of exploiting the state’s wealth in festivals “instead of streamlining employment and unemployment”.

Former Nagaland CM KL Chishi and Alem Jongshi Longkumer, Congress candidates for the state’s Lok Sabha polls and assembly by-elections, respectively, at Congress Bhawan in Kohima

Former bureaucrat Alem Jongshi Longkumer, who will contest for the by-election to the Aonglenden constituency, mentioned that his philosophy of politics is “secularism and social harmony” which matched with the INC principles.

Longkumer’s priority for contesting is to address the issues of education and by providing employment and other facilities to the youth, infrastructure and economic development and social harmony, with health care topping his list.

NPCC president Kewekhape Therie, in his address, acknowledged the party for “bearing all the difficulties” as Congress “at one time” was “insulted, thrown out, discarded” as they strive to come back to power. To him, Chishi is “the most matured, seasonal [seasoned] and tested leader” and the “fittest person” for the Lok Sabha candidature and is hopeful that Congress will come out as the winner in upcoming election.

Admitting that Congress cannot win without the support of “like-minded people”, Therie said, “We know we are weak and we need more friends.” He also agreed with Chishi that the lone Naga voice in Parliament will be heard if the seat is represented by a national party.

Chishi will contest against Tokheho Yepthomi, who was the consensus candidate of the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA).

On the political limbo of the state, Therie said “Rahul Gandhi is prepared to give [a] solution”. With the belief that “all Nagas were one time Congress voters”, he hopes for “more people to join” the party.

While both Chishi and Yepthomi have filed their nominations to contest for the lone Lok Sabha seat, People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) consensus candidate Sharingain Longkumer has also filed the nomination to Aonglenden Constituency as on Friday. The last date for filing nominations in the state is March 25.

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