SHILLONG, Nov 28: From a road labourer to a school teacher and becoming the chief Minister of Meghalaya, for Dr. Donwa Dethwelson Lapang who is one the most successful politicians in the state, the journey wasn’t easy.
In view of ever emerging dynasty politics in the country and political instability being the tag line of Meghalaya, the journey was the toughest and after serving 45 years in politics, the grand old man of Meghalaya politics is has decided not to contest any more elections.
Born to a tailor father and tea seller mother on April 10, 1933 in Nongjri village in Ri Bhoi district, Dr. Lapang since childhood saw lots of ups and down in life.
“My father was a tailor and my mother used to work in the paddy field, at the same time she use to sell tea and being her eldest son, I accompanied my mother in her work,” recalled Dr. Lapang.
To help his mother, Dr. Lapang also had to sell tea in the market of Nongpoh, the constituency from which he was later elected as MLA.
“Sometimes I used to sell tea at Nongpoh market,” Dr. Lapang said adding, “My father died when I was very young”.
However, the turning point in his life was when he met Rev. S Mallai who gave him a better life and better education.
“I worked as road labourer, I went to school in fits and starts and I continued this way till I met Rev Mallai,” the former Chief Minister recalls.
Passing his matriculation from Shillong Government High School and graduating (B.A.) from the evening section of St. Anthony's College, Shillong, he later became the Sub-Inspector of schools. He also worked as a Typist in Assam Civil Secretariat. He was then promoted to Lower Division Assistant where he served for 13 years. Subsequently, he served as Sub-Inspector of schools for 10 years. In 1958, Dr. Lapang married to Amethyst Lynda Jomes Blah and they have one daughter and one son.
Shifting to politics, Dr. Lapang first contested in the Legislative Assembly Election in 1972 from Nongpoh Constituency as an independent Candidate and served as an MLA before becoming the Minister of State Cooperation, Jails, Education and Civil Defence in the year 1978.
From then onwards there was no looking back until the year 1992 when he became the Chief Minister of the state.
Though he held this post for only one year, he was again sworn in as Chief Minister on March 4, 2003. Due to disagreement in the coalition government he resigned from the post on 15 June 2006 and again became the Chief Minister on March 10, 2007.
In the 2008 State Election the Indian National Congress party won a majority of seats. He became the Chief Minister on March 10, 2008, but has to resign on March 19. He again became Chief Minister for the fourth time on May 13, 2009 but one year later dissidence within congress toppled his govt.
Realizing that his era has come to an end as a new generation of leaders has taken the forefront of politics in Meghalaya, the grand old man of Meghalaya politics says, “You can read the writing on the walls that mentality, the thinking of the people has switched over to young leaders, to the young educated and updated leaders”.
Nevertheless, he is presently serving as the president of the Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee. After serving 46 years in politics, DD Lapang finally decided not to contest election citing health reasons.
“For the last three elections my relatives tried to prevent me from contesting citing age and health reasons, but every time I made my own decision that I want to serve and let me serve but this time my health problems have increased and doctors advice me to take rest. I realize I cannot rise to the demand of the people as I may not able to do justice with the present condition,” the four time Chief Minister said.
Dr. Lapang is one of the most decorated leaders of Meghalaya who is associated with Meghalaya since it attained statehood and is the longest serving politician of Meghalaya.