This election season has been an eventful one, with a few choice names running off of everyone’s lips. Among the heavy names, there was the one used as humbly as the man himself is. Moses Rai, the SDF candidate contesting from the Poklok-Kamrang constituency, who suffered a crushing defeat with a large margin of 9727 votes against Prem Singh Golay, who contested from the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha. For someone fairly new in politics, he is anything but ordinary.
One of the most common things that our society does in undermine people by determining potential by age and he wasn’t spared the same. Having already been warned against joining politics by those who believed him to be “too young”, he went ahead with the part of him that believed this was an opportunity to become an example for other young people, so the next time there would be no age factor that would discourage someone; he wanted to prove himself because he valued his people.“This was my first time as a serious political candidate, so I feel proud even though we lost the election. I’m happy to have had a good rival”, he says.
As a young leader, he shares his interest in building awareness on a plethora of issues, the most significant one being political awareness. “I want to make the younger generation aware of state-nation politics, Sikkimese laws and traditions. I want to share SDF’s ideologies with them and help them take an active part in political activities.”
It is clear that he wants to push the boundaries for the young people of Poklok-Kamrang constituency. He has commenced an initiative at Poklok-Kamrang’s 50 wards, wherein he appoints one person from each ward as a coordinator, trains them on how to work in a social and political atmosphere/office. “I want to take this beyond these 50 wards and bring it to every constituency in Sikkim because only when we become politically aware do things run smoothly. Involvement is imperative.”
But his career did not come easily. Politics is every bit as difficult as any other job and the hearsay that went around calling him the scapegoat of SDF this election season, did not contribute to his ease of mind. To the general public, he became an easy target to mock and point fingers at, where blaming the newness of his candidature and lack of experience made sense. For every supporter he gathered, there would be someone who scoffed at his choices. “There is a negative view of politics in our state. People don’t find it a viable career option, but my choice was because of my emotional connection with Mr Pawan Kumar Chamling. I grew up knowing only him as our Chief Minister. Before this, I used to work at my tours and travels company – whenever guests would compliment Sikkim and our leaders, I felt extremely proud. I cast my first vote for Chamling, and slowly in time I came to realize that I wanted to take this seriously”.
He also shares his stance on recent issues that have plagued Sikkim, most notoriously, the firecracker problem. He believes that as good leaders, the environment should be taken into consideration while forming policies. “Instead of giving the public a time limit of two hours for the bursting of firecrackers, it should have been completely banned.”
He explains that since the foundation of the new government is still not stable, people are insecure. When asked about the defection of 10 MLAs from SDF to BJP, he states that because the defection was constitutional and legal, it had to be accepted. “The defection is less of a problem than bringing a central party into Sikkim because that has hurt local sentiments. The two new BJP leaders have legally contested and won, so we can’t even argue”.
BJP’s entrance into Sikkim also brings in the topic of development. What does development mean to the state? “Development, vikas – it is taken as a personal benefit over logic in Sikkim. For instance, for selfish reasons, I benefit alone from something then that isn’t development at all. Physical development is one thing, but we have to ask ourselves, beyond physical spaces how do people view Sikkim and its citizens? Social, emotional, mental and physical development should take place and it is our duty set out to spread awareness on the same”.
Even on the mental health crisis in our nation, he believes that educational institutes, other governmental bodies and healthcare providers should work together to create greater information distribution of how important mental wellbeing is and how one can take care of it. He stresses that good policies should also be made for the LGBTQ+ community in the state and how their involvement in societal activities is important.
Apart from being involved in a serious business, Rai is also an avid photographer, with an interest in trekking and music. “People need to have hobbies and become more involved with that aspect of life too. Growing up, one of my biggest dreams was to bring as many tourists to the state as I could and the dream is still there!” His involvement in politics is quite new (he started out in 2017), but as he points out again, he had become indirectly a part of politics after voting in 2014 general elections.
One of the main motives for the next five years is also to generate employment by investing in the tourism sector and push people from Poklok-Kamrang to do something for themselves.
“We should not see politics as a source of income. If I had been selfish, then I would have given in a long time back to all the offers presented to me, but I didn’t because I had bigger dreams. When cabinet ministers and bureaucrats visited our constituency during the campaigning period, it felt great to see the public get to interact with the dignitaries. For me, it is people before the self.”