A ‘king’ (Angh), a minister and an engineer are pitted in a three-cornered fight in Nagaland’s Tizit constituency, where a year-and-half ago 14 civilians died after a botched operation was conducted by security forces in the village of Oting.
The ‘Angh’ of Oting, Tahwang, is contesting the February 27 assembly polls on a Naga People’s Front (NPF) ticket against the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party MLA P Paiwang Konyak, who is a cabinet minister in the outgoing government.
Congress’s T Thomas Konyak, a greenhorn in politics, is the third contender for the seat, which shares its borders with Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the constituency located in Mon district in the eastern part of the state.
Road connectivity, education, healthcare and the need for employment opportunities are among the main concerns of people in Tizit.
Tahwang Angh hopes to be the first from his family to win an election as his late father had contested it unsuccessfully several times, followed by his elder brother, who passed away recently.
“As a customary head, I can’t help people beyond my personal capacity. To do something good for the public, I need the government’s help and hence, I am contesting the election,” he said.
Ensuring special assistance for victims of the anti-militancy operation which resulted in the deaths and injury of people from his village, will be among his priority, if elected, Tahwang Angh said.
“About a dozen were left handicapped. Some arrangements should be made to help them earn their livelihoods,” he maintained.
On December 4, 2021, six coal miners returning from work were killed in a botched ambush by security forces at Oting village of Mon district, while seven others were gunned down when angry villagers scuffled with them after discovering the bullet-riddled bodies of the labourers in an Army truck.
One security personnel was also killed in the melee.
Another civilian was killed when a mob retaliated by attacking an Assam Rifles camp in Mon town the next day.
For 38-year-old Tahwang, roads and education are the other issues on his agenda. Claiming that he is not afraid of facing defeat, he said he wanted to contest the election as he wanted to do something good for the people.
Capitalising on the border trade aspect of Tizit is another point of focus for the NPF candidate, with the Congress nominee Thomas Konyak also sharing the same vision.
“There is so much scope for employment opportunities, income avenues by exploring the potential in the border areas. I want to work on it,” the 26-year-old engineer said.
Making education accessible is another priority for him as he recalled the struggles he had to endure to complete his studies.
“My mother is an ASHA worker and my father is a village guard. Both get stipends and have no fixed salary. I studied on a Nagaland government scholarship, for which also we had to fight as students.
“The youths cannot continue with their studies with so much of struggle. I want education to be available for all and employment opportunities after that,” Thomas Konyak said.
He also claimed that Congress is the only party which can challenge the BJP and Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ has been able to revive the party, which made him seek the party ticket.
The incumbent Paiwang Konyak is also not leaving matters to chance as he seeks a third straight term from Tizit.
Minister for Transport, Railways and Civil Aviation in the outgoing government, the 45-year-old has got the top BJP guns campaigning for him.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, among others, canvassed for Paiwang and other candidates of the BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) alliance in the district.
BJP workers are busy garnering support for their candidate, who also belongs to the lineage of traditional rulers of a tribe.
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