Mokokchung, Feb. 17: The house in the Kumlong ward of this town is at “sixes and sevens,” admits its owner as she struggles to make room for her chair between the dining table and a heap of boxes of mineral water and other assorted articles.
It has been like this ever since Yangerla, a medical doctor, decided to contest in the Assembly election from Mokokchung town constituency as an Independent.
The kitchen, which is central to any Naga household, is open since early morning preparing to receive the stream of visitors through the day; the sight of rice and tea coming out of the kitchen together would test the skill of the uninitiated at judging the time of the day.
“Khaise na nai, ”(have you eaten?) she asks a visitor as he prepares to leave, more as a hostess than as a vote-seeking candidate.
Yangerla is pinning her hopes largely on the youth and women to see her through to the hallowed precincts of the Nagaland Assembly, which, in its nearly five decades, has not hosted a single woman.
Several women have contested in the past only to lose. This time there are two, including Yangerla. The other woman candidate is Rakhila of BJP from Tuensang. “Women in Nagaland have shone in many areas, be it in administration, as civil society leaders, in art and culture, there are women reverends and what have you. Somehow, though, we have not been able to break men’s stranglehold on the political system,” she says, adding that the need of the hour were strong-headed and determined women to change the status quo.
Only recently, the Nagaland Assembly had rejected reservation for women in civic bodies, triggering quite a bit of bad blood with some women groups moving the Supreme Court against the resolution.
“I am not for reservation for women. Men and women must be on an equal footing in politics just as it has been traditionally in other aspects of life,” Yangerla says. “God’s given wisdom to women must be freely shared with men as equal partners in building an enlightened society and that is possible only with women participating in decision-making processes at the highest level.”
Yangerla, who retired as principal director, health and family welfare department, in October 2012, has never married. “I am married to my profession,” she says smiling.
It is this profession, which nurtured in her a desire to enter the world of politics. “My work kept me involved with the people and it is the desire to continue to serve them that prompted me to take the plunge. Of course, my well-wishers who felt I could do something for our society also encouraged me to contest the election,” she says.
The “wastage” of good talent in the absence of opportunities and leadership is what has her concerned. “We have highly qualified youth coming back to the state and finding nothing to do, no one to show them the way. The government cannot be the only refuge for them, we have to build avenues and provide them with a springboard to launch them into a bright future… they are our future,” she says passionately.
The ask is tall, no doubt, but even taller is the challenge that lies before her in her first foray into electoral politics. She has to contend with sitting MLA and Congress candidate Apok Jamir, who is also the son of former chief minister S.C. Jamir, besides Rosemtong of the Naga People’s Front.
“It has been good so far… let’s see what the future has in store for me,” Yangerla says before joining her supporters gathered in the courtyard.