Shillong, March 11: “Tribal-dominated” Meghalaya Legislative Assembly today created history by elevating its only “non-indigenous” legislator to the post of Speaker.
Abu Taher Mondal, 46, a Congress legislator from Phulbari constituency in the plains belt of West Garo Hills, took over the chair unopposed.
However, the HSPDP, with four legislators, stayed away as a token protest against the elevation of a “non-indigenous legislator” to the constitutional office.
This morning, which was also the last day of the special session, pro tem Speaker Rowell Lyngdoh declared Mondal as the Speaker of the ninth Meghalaya Assembly as there was no other contender for the coveted post.
The nomination papers of HSPDP legislator from Nongkrem, Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit, were found to be invalid in the absence of a seconder to his nomination for the election to the office.
Mondal, who had also created history in 1998 when he became the first non-indigenous legislator in the state to be inducted as a minister in the then B.B. Lyngdoh ministry, was escorted to the chair by chief minister Mukul M. Sangma and UDP leader Donkupar Roy.
Felicitating Mondal, Sangma said the people of the state would celebrate the vibrant nature of the Indian democracy as the same creates space for all sections of society.
“I congratulate you on this historic moment as you assume this office. We have full faith in your experience and capability and that you will uphold the credibility and dignity of this House. We also hope that you will provide space for all of us to reflect the aspirations of the people,” Sangma said.
Roy, on the other hand, expressed hope that the new Assembly building will be completed during Mondal’s tenure as Speaker.
“A major task before you is to see when will the House get its own building,” he said, adding that he expected impartiality from the new Speaker.
After several members from both sides congratulated him, Mondal said, “Although my name or look does not resemble the tribal people, but I will represent the state and assure you that none of my actions will let down the faith reposed on me by my tribal brothers and sisters. I will rise to the occasion.”
He said he not only represents the non-indigenous population of the state, but also the tribal people.
“In my constituency, there is a sizeable indigenous population where more than 9,000 out of the 22,000 voters are tribals,” the former power minister said.
An engineer by profession, Mondal also confessed that he never thought that he would become a legislator as his passion was to specialise in structural design.
“But when I was elected to the Meghalaya Assembly, I found out that I can contribute to the development of the people, especially the poorer sections of society,” he said.