By Ferdinand Rani
Late Evansius Kek Mawlong, commonly known as Bah Kek, is a household name in the Umroi constituency, in particular, and the state in general.
His name is synonymous with the constituency as people speak highly of him and his contributions to Umroi. He was the main architect in the formation of the United Democratic Party in Meghalaya and was its Founding President.
“EK Mawlong was one of the best MLAs. He was humble and kind. He was a leader and it’s because of him that the constituency has reached this far,” a shopkeeper in Umroi said.
Mawlong was a six-time MLA. He first won the seat in 1978 as an independent. He was re-elected from the Umroi seat in the 1983, 1988 and 1993 state legislative elections as a member of the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP). He was re-elected in 1998 as a United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate. He lost the 2003 assembly election to Congress’ Stanlywiss Rymbai but recaptured the seat in the 2008 polls.
Before he could complete his term, Mawlong passed away on October 18, 2008. Following his demise, a by-poll was necessitated but the UDP failed to cash in on the sympathy wave. Mawlong’s son George B Lyngdoh lost the seat to Congress’ Stanlywiss Rymbai.
Congress held the reigns from 2009 onwards till 2021. In the 2013 elections, Ngaitlang Dhar of Congress emerged victorious and in 2018, Mawlong’s son, George B Lyngdoh won the seat on a Congress ticket.
Congress, however, lost the seat in 2021 after George B Lyngdoh defected to Trinamool Congress along with 11 other sitting Congress MLAs.
People residing in the disputed area of Block II, which previously falls under the Umroi constituency but is now under the Mawhati constituency post delimitation in 2013, said the region was under a lot of duress due to a lack of security cover, especially during the height of militancy in neighbouring state of Assam.
“Bah Kek had taken many steps to ensure our safety. He accompanied us and made sure the people felt safe and secure,” said Blik Sohtun, a president of the Synjuk ki Rangbah Shnong in the Block II area.
He further added that there were instances when Assam police would target the locals over several issues.
“During his (Kek’s) time, we were very close to solving the border issue with Assam but eventually he wasn’t in power anymore,” said another resident.
Years later, sitting MLA George B Lyngdoh stepped into his father’s shoes and mixed responses were gathered from the residents. While some feel that Lyngdoh has done a good job as an MLA, others felt that he did not live up to their expectations.
Apart from the common problems that every constituency faces like drinking water, power supply, education, infrastructure, roads and connectivity, a few residents felt that Lyngdoh’s association with TMC is causing a lot of strain among the locals; others felt that Lyngdoh, being in the Opposition for the last five years, has lessened development in the area.
As the polling day draws near, the people expressed that the election fever has changed in comparison with the elections in the past.
As far as the fight for electing a leader is concerned, ex-MLA and Congress candidate Stanlywiss Rymbai and NPP’s Damanbait Lamare will be giving TMC’s George Lyngdoh a tough fight.
The UDP and Congress have always been close rivals, and the poll battles in the past had always centred around candidates from these two parties. But now, with NPP gaining ground in the constituency, Umroi will likely witness a triangular fight.
“If George B Lyngdoh had remained with Congress, he would have won this election for sure,” a local shopkeeper said.
A young man from Bhoirymbong stated, “It is hard to predict because people here are smart now; they do not publicly disclose their support for a particular candidate or party.”
Talking about money power, the young man said, “Yes, they have been distributing blankets and financial aid in the past few months. People took the freebies but will not cast their votes in the respective candidates’ favours.”
Another young woman feels that the NPP needs to come back to power, adding that the constituency and state have gained a lot from the initiatives introduced by the NPP-led MDA government.
While candidates for the upcoming February 27 assembly election are trying to win the trust and love of the people of this constituency with favours and promises, finding another leader like Bah Kek is a gigantic quest as people long to see someone fill the void left by the late leader.
“Though George can never be like his father, the people of Umroi constituency hope he will carve his own niche and serve the people in all earnest,” an elderly woman said.