| Merentoshi R. Jamir interacts with his supporters |
Mokokchung, Feb. 21: He could have been in government or he could have been a lawyer, but he opted to be an entrepreneur.
A few years down the line, though, Merentoshi R. Jamir finds himself engaged in a battle of the ballot, something he would not have bargained for till the other day.
At 32, Merentoshi is the youngest of the lot contesting in this year’s Assembly elections in Nagaland slated for February 23.
“My village wanted me to contest, so here I am,” he says. But now that he is in the ring he is enjoying every moment of it, he says.
“It is a new experience, something very exciting, but I am at times nervous, too,” Merentoshi, who graduated from St Stephen’s College before doing law from Delhi University, says. He had done his schooling at St Paul’s School, Darjeeling.
The entrepreneur-turned politician, who is contesting on a Naga People’s Front ticket from Mongoya Assembly constituency in Mokokchung district, is not loathe to giving credit where it is due. “I am young and it is a new journey, but I am getting a lot of help and guidance from the elders,” he admits.
Merentoshi’s only opponent is Ngangshi K. Ao. He had won the last elections as an Independent and was a minister in the Neiphiu Rio cabinet before resigning and joining the NPF recently. However, when it was time for selecting candidates for this year’s elections, the NPF dumped him. Ao is now contesting on a Congress ticket.
“Apart from my grandfather, there has been no politician in our family,” Merentoshi points out. His grandfather, N. I. Jamir, was a Congress MLA from 1982 to 1996. “He is my inspiration. He showed us how to serve God, serve the people and I wish to carry forward his ideals. I want to help the people. I did even when I was in business,” he says. Merentoshi chose to go into real estate development, refusing to join the government.
Merentoshi’s father-in-law, T. Abao Kire, was also an MLA from Kohima town constituency. A father of three, a son and two daughters, of whom one was born on January 13 this year, he is hopeful of the outcome that will be known on February 28. “Things are looking positive. I do not see any reason for worry,” Merentoshi says.
His parents, father Alemtemshi Jamir and mother Banou Jamir are both IAS and senior bureaucrats in the Nagaland government. While Alemtemshi is chief secretary, Banou is additional chief secretary.
“Both of us requested the Election Commission to allow us to go on leave since our son is contesting. We felt it would be improper to be in office under the circumstances,” Alemtemshi said. Both will resume duties once the polling is over.
The constituency with an electorate size of close to 15,000 spans six villages, of which three are large, and five wards of Mokokchung town.
Stating his area of focus would be the youth, he says: “This is the century of the youth and I am for their empowerment. They need to have a bigger say in the decision-making process. We, the youth, must be able to put forward our opinion and be heard,” Merentoshi, a fan of country and rock music with a taste for Naga cuisine, says.
Like some others, Merentoshi, too, is appalled by reports of huge sums of money being spent by candidates to buy votes.
“A lot of things need to change around these parts and I am certain change will come,” he says.
The young and the bold, Nagaland just cannot have enough of the breed.