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Meghalaya needs viable team, says Lyngdoh

Former minister speaks on run-up to Meghalaya elections

In 45 years of statehood, Meghalaya has had no concrete policies in important sectors like agriculture, mining and tourism which could help the state and its people prosper.

With Assembly elections due early next year, former Meghalaya home minister Robert Garnett Lyngdoh spoke to Rining Lyngdoh of The Telegraph on Friday about governance, responsibility of electorates, absence of quality legislators and business tycoons in the political arena.

Lyngdoh, who had represented the erstwhile Laitumkhrah constituency from 1998 to 2008, distanced himself from active politics since 2008. He was also the vice-chancellor of Martin Luther Christian University. His sister M. Ampareen Lyngdoh now represents the East Shillong (earlier Laitumkhrah) constituency and is minister for labour, information technology and communication, PWD (buildings).

He said that Meghalaya, which often has a fractured mandate, needs a "viable team" that should work dedicatedly for a better tomorrow. He also advocated the need among voters to use reason not emotion while voting.

The Telegraph: It is lamented that voters in Meghalaya lack political consciousness and the state has seen fractured mandates leading to the formation of "unstable" coalition governments. What in your opinion is the role of voters?

Robert Lyngdoh: People should vote responsibly. They must use reason, not emotion. For people to vote responsibly, the responsibility is also on the political system to create a viable alternative for the people to choose.

TT: Should like-minded political parties openly tell the people their plan of coming together and work for the betterment of the state? What is your take on the pre-poll alliance forged between two opposition parties, United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP)?

RG: I often find political parties confuse the people. On one hand, the BJP is working with the National People's Party (NPP), yet in the open, they both want to field as many as 60 candidates. The UDP and the HSPDP have forged a pre-poll alliance but they are still putting up candidates for a "friendly fight". We know the NCP is working with the Congress, yet both the parties said they would field candidates on all 60 seats. Is this not confusing the people? Should the political system not provide clarity so the people can vote responsibly? Therefore, the parties should come out openly so the people can vote responsibly.

TT: What do political parties have for the people?

RG: No political party talks about issues like health, education and tourism. What will they do to create jobs? Nobody talked about governance. Everyone said they would be in the government but they did not talk about governance. We have the National Games in 2022 but the approach and direction are yet to be spelt out. The prestige of the state is at stake.

TT: There is a view that people in Meghalaya always go by personal politics when comes to electing lawmakers. What is your view?

RG: It is a fact. But today people should say that we don't need personal politics because no individual can do it alone. To get things done, we need a team. Before election, people have to look at a team and post-election we need a dedicated team. But where are the viable teams for the people to choose? I am asking this because at the end, it is the voters who suffer. The flux within the political system is natural. It is expected but not at the expense of politics.

TT: What's your take on businessmen joining politics?

RG: I am totally against business tycoons entering politics because it defeats the system of checks and balances required for good governance. If a PWD contractor becomes PWD minister, who is going to check the work of contractors? If the contractor is a minister, who will check the work since engineers have to answer to the minister? Should people allow this to go on? Similarly, if an industrialist becomes industries minister, who will check that local people are employed? Therefore, we need segregation.

TT: Power and money often influence voters. How can this trend be stopped?

RG: It is true. I believe people today are asking money to cast their vote because they don't believe in the political system anymore. People are not willing to believe in promises because they have been fooled too many times. However, the people know that by taking money, they are selling their future. People would invest in promises only if they find sincerity and credibility in the leaders making the promises. Therefore, let the people find a credible team so they can vote responsibly. Let this flux within the political system result in the formation of a credible team so the people can trust and vote for them.

TT: Will the emergence of new political parties benefit the state or create confusion among the people?

RG: Forget about new political parties. Some parties from outside Meghalaya are adding to the confusion. The emergence of new political parties will only fragment the votes and at the end of election, we find that a party which was not wanted got into the helm of affairs.

TT: How do you rate the performance of the present state government on a scale of 1 to 10?

RG: I rate it 3. Because routine works at the executive level have been carried out but not a single policy made. Who is to be blamed? I must say the legislature has failed collectively, both the ruling party and the Opposition.

TT: Who should the people vote for in the upcoming Assembly polls?

RG: It is difficult to say because I don't see any developmental agenda.

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