She took her first tentative steps as a political greenhorn in 1993, gracing the Assembly as the lone lady legislator. Elected from Mawkhar constituency under the banner of the Hill People’s Union (HPU), a regional party, Roshan Warjri, fondly known as Kong Kei, stood up to be counted. She won the election again in 1998 and then went into political hibernation since 2003. This year, the woman with the radiant smile is back in the fray on a Congress ticket from the newly delimited North Shillong constituency. But her priorities remain intact.
“I had never been away from the public sphere although I did not contest in the 2003 and 2008 Assembly elections. In the past decade, I had been serving under cooperative institutions like the Meghalaya Cooperative Apex Bank where I had served as the chairperson. So I was very much in the public domain and serving the people although not as a legislator. In making a return into the electoral battleground, my priorities have not changed — serving the people to the best of my ability with all sincerity and dedication,” Kong Kei told The Telegraph.
Asked whether she was disillusioned with regional parties, Warjri countered: “My association with the regional parties dates back to my childhood days, especially during the Hill State Movement. I won my first election in 1993 as a candidate of the then HPU while in 1998, I was re-elected on a United Democratic Party (UDP) ticket. I discovered that the regional parties lack unity, there have been continued splits. The Congress is a party with a strong ideology, whose commitment to serve the people is unquestionable. The UPA government at the Centre and the Congress-led government in Meghalaya have been doing well in implementing various flagship programmes for the benefit of the people.”
From November 2011 to December last year, Warjri was chairperson of the Meghalaya State Commission for Women. “In the past year, the commission members and I have toured various places across the state to create legal awareness as being enlightened about laws is the first step towards combating and containing the crimes committed against women. With limited powers, we were able to settle many desertion and maintenance cases, besides following up and overseeing cases related to violence against women.”
So, what is her vision for the women of Meghalaya?
“Being a woman and a mother, there is a deep sense of duty and commitment within me to work for the welfare of women. I see the importance of setting up fast track courts to quicken the pace of delivering justice to victims of crime and violence. Another agenda, which I feel is of utmost importance, is granting more powers to the women’s commission so that it is able to deal with cases more effectively. The commission has limited powers. Social and economic security for women is also on top of the agenda.”
Besides focussing on women, the electorate hopes Warjri will take a stand on corruption. “The Assembly passed the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2012 last December. This law should be implemented to effectively deal with cases of corruption at various levels. Meghalaya was one of the first to implement the RTI Act.”
On development and the proper implementation of schemes, she says, “The Congress, in its manifesto, has promised to bring in a legislation on social audit of all government-related programmes. I feel this will go a long way in combating corruption and under-development.”
With the battlelines drawn for the February 23 polls, Kong Kei will hopefully play a vital role in the ninth Meghalaya Assembly.