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Druti Banerjee, Pune

After 60 years of Nagaland attaining statehood, Hekani Jakhalu of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) achieved history by becoming the first woman ever elected to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly.

The candidate from the NDPP, an ally of the BJP, has won the Dimapur-III seat. Of the 183 candidates that ran for the Nagaland legislature, four were women, including the lawyer and activist, who is 48 years old. Ms. Jakhalu beat Azheto Zhimomi of the Lok Janshakti Party.

Lawyer and social entrepreneur Ms. Jakhalu were educated in the United States. She hopes that her work with YouthNet, a nonprofit organization she created around 20 years back to educate children and help them develop life skills, would help her get support from voters.

She earned 45.16 percent of the 31,874 votes in the constituency, narrowly beating out Azheto Zhimomi, who received 40.34 percent. The numbers see-sawed back and forth between the two competitors until the very end of the affair.

“This is only the first step. We need to do many good things in the future,” Jakhalu said in her victory speech. Jakhalu, who received the Nari Shakti Award in 2018, has promised the constituents of the constituency in four ways. The social entrepreneur pledged during the election to create jobs for youngsters, defend the rights of women, create a model district, and place a focus on the development of her district’s minority-inhabited neighborhoods. 

“Society in Nagaland has been very patriarchal, but the mindset is changing. This reflects in the time and energy the NDPP is spending on me and my fellow candidate, Salhoutuonuo Kruse, contesting the Western Angami seat,” in a session between the campaigns, she told The Hindu. 

While counting continues, the NDPP-BJP coalition, which won three seats, is expected to keep control of Nagaland, where counting is still going on.