The limelight may not quite be on him, but as the youngest contender in the fray, Subhankar Koch has nothing to lose in the Ampati by-election.
On the contrary, the young man, who carries a mature head on his shoulders, has his eyes firmly set at the larger picture.
The 26-year-old Independent candidate from Betasing, whose “chance debut” has arguably made up the numbers, making the contest appear triangular as against a fight primarily between NPP and Congress, is also looking at earning a few brownie points ahead of the district council elections next year.
“I was with BJP for a year or so and had supported Bakul Hajong in the run up to the February elections. But after he was eventually not given a ticket, my supporters, including several BJP karyakartas (workers), egged me on to contest as an Independent instead. So it was as late as May 9 when I decided to file my nominations. Now while I expect to put up a fight, my eyes are also set on the district council elections next year,” Koch told The Shillong Times on Thursday.
The May 28 by-poll was necessitated after former chief minister Mukul Sangma decided to vacate the seat for his 27-year-old daughter, Miani D Shira to contest on a Congress ticket against the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance’s consensus candidate, Clement G Momin of NPP.
Even as star campaigners from Congress and NPP have trickled into the constituency, with more, including chief minister Conrad Sangma himself, expected in a day or two for stepping up the poll campaign, Koch is rather unperturbed by the aggressive build-up on the other side.
In fact, he is optimistic about polling a fair share of votes.
“My supporters are in the field campaigning for me. I expect to bag at least 5000 votes from the Koch and Hajong communities here apart from getting a fair share from the Garo, Muslim and Bengali communities,” he said.
The stakes are high though for both Congress and NPP with the latter eyeing the prospect of winning Ampati and adding “the jewel in their crown”.
On the development Ampati has seen over a decade under Mukul Sangma, the young man, who is an Arts graduate and had worked in Sarba Siksha Abhiyan for two years, was a tad guarded and instead chose to point out a pertinent issue – unemployment.
“Unemployment is an issue that remains to be addressed. There is a need to create jobs and opportunities for self-employment,” Koch said.