Gangtok: Laten Sherpa is also known as the ‘social media warrior’ of Sikkim because he is always there on social media, doing ‘lives’ and telling stories of people and the various problems or issues faced by them.
In an exclusive interview with EastMojo editor-in-chief Karma Paljor, Sherpa — who is contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha election in Sikkim on a BJP ticket — talks about his vision and the main issues that he is going to highlight, if elected to power, among other things. Excerpts from the interview:
Karma Paljor: Laten Sherpa is a popular figure in Sikkim. He is popular in Sikkim because he is always there on social media — doing lives and telling stories of people and various problems or issues that are there in Sikkim. Sherpa is very vocal and straight in his approach and has taken on the government several times on different issues. Laten Tshering Sherpa is now fighting for the BJP for the Lok Sabha seat. You are successful in reaching out to the people and connect with them. What made you start with this in the first place?
Laten Sherpa: Politicians are always only about promises. During elections, they would come and make many promises which turn out to be false. It was in fact today that I visited Martam and saw for myself how bad the ground situation is. Elections will always come and go but for me the fight is against injustice, the injustice done to the people. My dharna is to highlight the areas neglected by the government and various departments.
KP: So most of you will think that this is a typical statement made by any politician, right, that’s what you believe in. But when it comes to Mr Sherpa here, that’s exactly true. You can go across to his timeline on his Facebook page, you will see him vocally speaking out against various issues, even from remote corners of Sikkim. Tell me about the water scarcity issue you highlighted.
LS: This was in Rinchenpong constituency in West Sikkim, areas like Kamling Sorlung near Mangley where people still have to walk a couple of hours for water, like two or three hours. And in Yuksom Tashiding constituency, people have to walk for hours to travel within their own constituency. This is an issue I highlighted. My dharna is always to take the voice of the downtrodden to the government.
KP: Did you ever think you would get a ticket to fight the Lok Sabha election?
LS: People say that Laten Sherpa is not a degree holder and has no education. If that’s the case that only the educated can do well and fight elections, then I will say that I have passed two classes more than our chief minister. The CM studied two classes lower to me and still he can become the chief minister of Sikkim. He is where he is because of his work. We have elected many learned scholars to Parliament but what have they done for Sikkim? Some of them only speak in English and don’t even know Nepali. I am blessed that the biggest party in India has given me the tickets to fight the elections. This is because of my work. It is because I visited the remote areas of Sikkim and highlighted problems of the poor. My selection is the gift of the poor.
KP: If you get a chance to speak in Parliament, what will you say?
LS: MPs from Sikkim have failed to speak for Sikkim. I will speak from Sikkim but will do it in my mother tongue. Today people from outside still ask where Sikkim is. I want the people to know about us and about our state Sikkim.
KP: But today, Sikkim is known world over because of tourism and organic Sikkim. Do you agree Sikkim is world famous?
LS: I am not against organic but you should travel to remote areas of Sikkim to see the reality. Our people want to grow organic food but there is no water and proper facilities. People haven’t received the basic facilities, the real farmer doesn’t have any facilities. Let organic be on the ground and not only on paper.
KP: What kind of a social warrior are you?
LS: I want to tell you my story. One day, I was sitting idle playing with my mobile phone. We all have our Internet packages, all this is going to waste. At that time I saw the video of pressure cookers being distributed by the government. I put out a post questioning the scheme and I got a threat for that post. Someone sent me a message threatening to cut me into pieces and throw my body into the Teesta River. I guess many would have kept quiet but I got the strength to speak up. Then I saw that I could make a difference. That’s where it all started. It has been two years since then and I have not stopped.
KP: Before you post or go live on social media, what do you plan?
LS: I don’t plan anything, my work itself is planning. When you start doing such a work, you gain experience. Today, I am in the political field among the 11 candidates for Lok Sabha seat. If I deserve it, the people will definitely give me their precious vote. After the 11th of April, people will sit back and relax but not me. I will continue to speak for the people of Sikkim until I die.
KP: What is your main issue?
LS: My main issue is about the poor people of Sikkim. They need to be celebrated. The problems of the farmers and the factory workers, they need to be raised. We need to stop worshipping the politicians. We need to vote wisely and cast our vote to the right candidate. A people’s vote is precious. We suffer because we don’t choose our leaders wisely.
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