James Michael Lyngdoh
|Chief Election Commissioner of India|
June 14th, 2001 – Feb 7th, 2004
|Succeeded by||T.S. Krishnamurthy|
|Awards||Ramon Magsaysay Award 2003 Government Service|
James Michael Lyngdoh is an Indian civil servant and was Chief Election Commissioner of India from June 14, 2001 to February 7, 2004. He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2003.
Lyngdoh completed his education in Delhi, at St Stephen's College.
Lyngdoh entered the IAS, when he was twenty-two. He quickly became known for probity and toughness and for favoring the underdog against politicians and the local rich. In one early post, his principled execution of mandated land reforms so enraged landlords that he was transferred before the year was out., . Similar clashes with the powers-that-be marked his rise in the Service.., But rise he did, eventually serving as Secretary, Coordination and Public Grievances, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.
Work as Election Commissioner
In 1997, the president named Lyngdoh one of India’s three election commissioners. By 2001 he was chief election officer. Lyngdoh soon faced crises in two of India’s most troubled states.
2002 Kashmir Elections
In Jammu-Kashmir, where India was locked in a potentially explosive standoff with Pakistan and local secessionists, state elections fell due in 2002. Many people doubted that they could be conducted credibly. Lyngdoh thought otherwise. Pushing ahead despite a vicious cross-border assassination campaign., and a boycott, the Election Commission updated and verified the election rolls, introduced voter identity cards, and added a thousand new voting sites. The Commission recruited nonpartisan poll officers for every polling station.He heightened election security by mobilizing the local police and paramilitary forces from outside the state.., Then he urged the people "to vote fearlessly. " Forty-four percent did so. Even Lyngdoh’s critics., acknowledged that the polling had been fair, causing many in India to seize this triumph of "ballots over bullets" as a sign that the long-festering crisis of Jammu-Kashmir might yet be resolved peacefully.
Gujarat Elections, and Confrontation with Narendra Modi
In July 2002, S S Bhandari, Governor of Gujarat on the recommendation of State Cabinet headed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, dissolved the Gujarat Assembly nine months before its term was due to end. The decision, attacked by main Opposition Congress and Left parties, was seen as an attempt to force the Election Commission to hold early elections in view of the Constitutional mandate prohibiting a more than six-month gap between two sessions of the House. The dissolution of the assembly had been publicly opposed by the Election Commission in wake of the then recent communal violence in the state. The Election Commission headed by Lyngdoh, however, ruled out early elections in Gujarat. On August 20, 2002, in a public meeting at Bodeli, near Vadodara, Narendra Modi targetted Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh. Mod insinuated that the reason the Election Commission had delayed holding the Gujarat assembly elections was because Lyngdoh was a Christian. Lyngdoh had hit back at Narendra Modi for attacking him on religious grounds saying it was "quite despicable" and "gossip of menials" by those who have not heard of atheism. A day after Prime Minister Vajapayee's rebuke, Modi claimed that the controversy with Lyngdoh was over following Vajpayee's "guidelines" but reiterated his demand for early assembly elections in Gujarat. In October 2002, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the Election Commission's order to defer assembly elections in Gujarat.
In 2004, Lyngdoh publishsed a book titled "Chronicles of an Impossible Election". In this book he has dealt with the electoral process in India and the role of Election Commission. It is a chronicle of the assembly elections held in Jammu and Kashmir in the year 2002. It also discusses the Gujarat elections of 2002. The book received widespread acclaim and praise.
View on Indian Politics and Politicians
Lyngdoh has frequently expressed his disdain for politics and politicians. In February 2004, in an interview, Lyngdoh had said: "Politicians by appointment only, all others are welcome to my house.". In August 2002, Lyngdoh had said that "“I think the politics today is dirty, vitiated and tendentious."  Lyngdoh has also described politicians as a "cancer" which has no cure.
- He remains active in public life after retirement. He is one of the members of India Rejuvenation Initiative an Indian anti-corruption organization formed by a group of retired and serving bureaucrats.
- In February 2011, Lyngdoh, while speaking to journalists after chairing a session on 'Free & Fair Elections - The Soul of Democracy', said that state funding of elections is 'useless' and that a proportionate representation system where the electoral fight takes place between parties and not candidates would be more appropriate since it would involve significantly less expenditure. In June 2012, Lyngdoh, while addressing a round table on “Indian Democracy & Elections – What is to be done?”, said that a proportional representation system for at least 50 percent of the seats of the legislatures would reduce electoral malpractices. He explained that political parties would reduce the need to spend huge amounts of funds on elections of individuals if the switch to proportional representation is made. He opined that the Election Commission should take charge of even the internal elections of political parties since in his opinion that is the only way to ensure democracy.
- "Previous Chief Election Commissioners". Election Commission of India.
- "The Ramon Magsaysay Awardees by Name (Alphabetical)". Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF).
- "Gujarat Assembly dissolved, early poll sought". Economic Times. July 19, 2002.
- "Modi's poll vault: EC only hurdle". Indian Express. July 19, 2002.
- "EC rules out early polls in Gujarat". The Hindu. August 17, 2002.
- "'Some journalists asked me recently, Has James Michael Lyngdoh come from Italy?". Outlook. September 30, 2002.
- "PM raps Modi for remarks on Lyngdoh". Times of India. August 24, 2002.
- "Gujarat polls: Lyngdoh hits back at Modi". Indian Express. August 24, 2002.
- "Controversy over: Modi". The Hindu. August 26, 2002.
- "SC upholds EC order on Gujarat". Times of India. October 28, 2002.
- "Supreme Court upholds EC decision on Gujarat polls". The Hindu. September 3, 2002.
- Lingdoh, James Michael (2004). Chronicle of an impossible election: the Election Commission and the 2002 Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections. India: Penguin Books India. p. 254. ISBN 9780670057665.
- "Lyngdoh's truth". The Hindu. September 21, 2004.
- "Limner Lyngdoh". India Today. July 26, 2004.
- "The power of democracy". Deccan Herald. December 12, 2004.
- "Modi kept calling him James Michael, RSS sent Lyngdoh a letter: you have made us proud". Indian Express. July 4, 2004.
- "At home in wilderness". The Hindu. Feb 23, 2004.
- "Lyngdoh lashes out at ‘gossip menials’". The Telegraph. August 24, 2002.
- "Lyngdoh to vote himself out on Saturday". The Economic Times. Feb 7, 2004.
- "EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS". IRI. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- "State Funding for Elections is a Useless thing". The Hindu. February 9, 2011.
- "Competition leading to poll malpractices: Lyngdoh". The Hindu. June 10, 2012.