He worked for a truck driver, struck gold in timber, became CM's rival


Kevise Sogotsu, 44, and his only election opponent could not have been more different. Neiphiu Rio is Nagaland's chief minister, a man with a privileged background that includes two decades of winning elections. Sogotsu, by contrast, was an orphan for whom relatives could not afford an education, who grew up to become one of the state's biggest timber suppliers, and who is contesting only his second election, from North Angami II.

He was with the BJP last time, when he lost. He has switched to the Congress because, he says, he expects it to win.

Sogotsu was barely two when he lost his parents to an illness he cannot recall. He was the seventh of eight siblings, the youngest brother barely a year old then. "Only our eldest sister was married. When our parents died we got separated as each went to live with a different relative," Sogotsu says. "We never received an education. I don't even remember my parents' faces any more."

He knows from his elder siblings that their father was very respected in the village, its gaon burha or headman. "But we were actually very, very poor. None of us brothers and sisters have any inheritance," he says. "Whatever I have, I have built from scratch."

Sogotsu went to school only for a couple of years, dropping out at age eight and going to live with his eldest sister. At age 12, he got his first job, a handyman in a goods truck, doing odd jobs for the driver as they travelled across the state.

Tired of being on the road all the time, Sogotsu quit after three years and returned to his village, hoping to grow paddy. The patch of land was so small that there was never enough paddy to sell, but it sustained him and some of his siblings.

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