The former chairman of Gangtok Municipal Corporation, who is contesting the state elections as an independent candidate, gets candid in this exclusive interview
Gangtok: With just a few days left for campaigning to end for the April 11 assembly elections in Sikkim, the hi-octane electioneering has already reached a crescendo. Top leaders from their respective parties are now making a last-ditch attempt to woo the voters in the picturesque Himalayan state.
EastMojo editor-in-chief Karma Paljor caught up with independent candidate and former chairman of Gangtok Municipal Corporation Ashis Rai for this freewheeling interview. Excerpts:
Karma Paljor: A former councillor, Ashis Rai is a hardworking candidate and have worked very hard earlier for the locality. He has worked on the ground level with the people of Arithang before when he visited the people and worked out at segregating garbage.
What prompted you to go independent? Is it the people?
Ashis Rai: It is the people of Arithang and their mandate that drove me to contest the election. The people have high hopes for me and they have supported me a lot to stand up for the election.
KP: How has his experience been working in this area?
AR: Arithang ward is a solid base for me and a lot of work has been earlier done in this area. We have initially started with managing the garbage. Thereafter, the second phase we took up was to segregate the management here. Arithang ward is a pioneer in solid waste management in the whole of Gangtok Municipal Corporation.
KP: Sikkim is popular for tourism and the organic story which is well known to everyone across India. As a young leader now, what impact do you want to create or what is your vision for Sikkim?
AR: If I get elected, I would work for the upliftment of youth in Sikkim. Sikkim has lesser focus on the upliftment of the youth. This is why I want to start the work for the uplightment vision from this ward itself. Due to the lack of space in urban areas, there are no proper health facilities around. So our aims is to get those facilities here so that the youth gives more focus on health and discipline.
KP: Since you mentioned youth and their issues, we have got depression, suicidal problems and substance abuse. So what would be your concrete plan to deal with such problems?
AR: The solution is to connect with the youth, we need young leaders to connect with the future of Sikkim. This is the prevalent problem that there are no young leaders. There are no people to connect with the young people. It is generally only during the election that we connect which is wrong. So, personally, I feel there should be more leaders to connect with the youth and show them the right direction.
KP: As far we can see, the young people have come out in support of you wholeheartedly and they believe that you have been able to successfully connect with them. But, overall, if you talk about Sikkim, what is your vision?
AR: In a broader sense, more youth-oriented programmes are required to form a better Sikkim. Programmes that build up the capacity of the youth so that in near future we can help the youth to build a better Sikkim.
KP: So one of these programmes is employment generation. But in Sikkim we can see that though tourism is a huge industry in Sikkim, the people doesn’t wish to join this industry and are looking for government jobs, how do you wean away the youth away from thinking about only government jobs?
AR: Tourism is a flourishing industry of Sikkim and also a great avenue of employment for the people. But what we need to do is to change the traditional thought process of the youth of Sikkim. The people of Sikkim always want to get into government jobs which have reached a saturation point. And we need to create more avenues in tourism field and construct their mind into tourism.
KP: You were a youth leader of the SDF party. But you have being let down by the SDF party when you haven’t been given the ticket?
AR: Yes I felt let down because I was a youth leader of the SDF party and got disappointed when I didn’t get the ticket.
KP: Now that you’re electing and do you have any plans of joining any mainstream political party after winning the elections?
AR: No plans of joining any mainstream party at this moment. Once I reach the river I will find a way to cross it.