In conversation with Paul Lyngdoh – Journey from a student activist to a political leader


SHILLONG: Meghalaya legislator Paul Lyngdoh revealed how party system, money power and partisan considerations had cost Meghalaya, a considerable good number of potential leaders.

During an exclusive interview with the TNT-The Northeast Today, Paul Lyngdoh, a former student leader and a present UDP legislator said that In Meghalaya, numbers matter more than leaders.

There is a belief that Meghalaya lacks a good and determined leader? Is this true? If yes, what is the missing link?

Paul Lyngdoh: On the contrary, we have a surfeit of extremely good, capable and well meaning leaders. What has held us back and denied us of our potential are factors like the party system, money power and partisan considerations. I was disliked by my ministerial colleagues because they didn't want somebody from a small political party to be successful. They needed me as a number, not as an assertive leader.

There is a concept that Politics is a dirty game. Do you agree?

It depends on your definition of politics. If by politics, you mean scheming, manipulation and intrigues, it is certainly dirty and is there in all profession including the media. I know of some media persons who are better at it than me. But if by politics, you mean statecraft, policy making and positive intervention of the state for the welfare of the people, it is certainly desirable.

How is political life treating you?

A mixed bag. There's a deep sense of satisfaction in being able to work for the people on the one hand and dejection in realizing that we are not utilizing our potential as a state on the other.

What changes have you witnessed in Meghalaya Politics in the past decade?

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

What are the obstacles faced by a politician?

In a close-knit society like ours, people tend to raise small, insignificant and small personal matters and give them more importance over truly significant issues with long term consequences to the state. They don't want an actionable plan on employment; they want jobs for their children in the Secretariat.

How can one change this mindset?

I think we are in the process of evolution. Things can't go on the way they have been over 40 years now. The reality of stiff competition is sinking in.

People say that being the face of the KSU once upon a time, has made it easier for you to garner votes during elections. Do you agree?

Well, it's a double edged sword – some voted because of it, some inspite of it, and some are repelled by it. At the end of the day, you have to outgrow your past.

There is a concept amongst many that active student leaders put on a brilliant show just to pave their way to state politics.

Morning shows the day. If a child is good with the guitar while he's 10, will you be surprised if he becomes a professional musician later in life? As for putting up a show, to borrow your words, very few known activists have succeeded in politics in Meghalaya. Student union backed parties have not been well received in Meghalaya unlike Assam, for example.

Ten years in politics, have you managed to live up to Gandhi's vision on a better India?

I've tried my best. Tried to inject positivity and optimism into the system, make government work as a minister, make it accountable as an opposition member.

What are few of the initiatives to your credit whilst you were at the realm of affairs?

I hate indulging in self-praise. A clap sounds better coming from others. However, initiatives like the work permit system, the construction if more parking facilities in Shillong, the report on the Boundary Commission are important milestones.

Who according to you is the best chief minister of Meghalaya?

I will not be perceived as fair if I name anyone. Also, some held office for a full term and some barely lasted some months. I think the best is yet to come.

(By Ibankyntiew Mawrie)