James Michael Lyngdoh
Chief Election Commissioner of India
In office
14 June 2001 – 7 February 2004
Preceded byM. S. Gill
Succeeded byT. S. Krishnamurthy
Personal details
Born (1939-02-08) 8 February 1939 (age 85)
OccupationCivil servant
AwardsRamon Magsaysay Award 2003 Government Service

James Michael Lyngdoh (born 8 February 1939) is an Indian civil servant and was Chief Election Commissioner of India from 14 June 2001 to 7 February 2004.[1] He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2003.[2]

Work as Election Commissioner

In 1997, the president named Lyngdoh one of India's three election commissioners. By 2001 he was chief election commissioner. Lyngdoh soon faced crisis in two of India's most troubled states.

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.[3] The dissolution of the assembly had been publicly opposed by the Election Commission in wake of the then recent communal violence in the state.[3][4]

The Election Commission headed by Lyngdoh ruled out early elections in Gujarat.[5] On 20 August 2002, in a public meeting at Bodeli, near Vadodara, Narendra Modi targeted Lyngdoh. Modi 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.[6][7][8]

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.[9] In October 2002, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the Election Commission's order to defer assembly elections in Gujarat.[10][11]


In 2004, Lyngdoh published a book titled "Chronicles of an Impossible Election[12] ". 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.[13][14][15][16]

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.".[17] In August 2002, Lyngdoh had said that ""I think the politics today is dirty, vitiated and tendentious."[18] Lyngdoh described politicians as a "cancer" which has no cure.[19]

In 2013, J M Lyngdoh has expressed in views on "Decriminalization of Indian Electoral system" at the quarterly lecture series organised by the Centre of Public Policy Research (CPPR) supported by South Indian Bank[20]

Post retirement

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.[23]


  1. ^ "Previous Chief Election Commissioners". Election Commission of India. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008.
  2. ^ "The Ramon Magsaysay Awardees by Name (Alphabetical)". Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF). Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Gujarat Assembly dissolved, early poll sought". Economic Times. 19 July 2002.
  4. ^ "Modi's poll vault: EC only hurdle". Indian Express. 19 July 2002.
  5. ^ "EC rules out early polls in Gujarat". The Hindu. 17 August 2002. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013.
  6. ^ "'Some journalists asked me recently, Has James Michael Lyngdoh come from Italy?". Outlook. 30 September 2002.
  7. ^ "PM raps Modi for remarks on Lyngdoh". The Times of India. 24 August 2002. Archived from the original on 19 July 2013.
  8. ^ "Gujarat polls: Lyngdoh hits back at Modi". Indian Express. 24 August 2002.
  9. ^ "Controversy over: Modi". The Hindu. 26 August 2002. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013.
  10. ^ "SC upholds EC order on Gujarat". The Times of India. 28 October 2002. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013.
  11. ^ "Supreme Court upholds EC decision on Gujarat polls". The Hindu. 3 September 2002. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Lyngdoh's truth". The Hindu. 21 September 2004. Archived from the original on 1 April 2005. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Limner Lyngdoh". India Today. 26 July 2004.
  15. ^ "The power of democracy". Deccan Herald. 12 December 2004. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Modi kept calling him James Michael, RSS sent Lyngdoh a letter: you have made us proud". Indian Express. 4 July 2004.
  17. ^ "At home in wilderness". The Hindu. 23 February 2004. Archived from the original on 30 April 2004.
  18. ^ "Lyngdoh lashes out at 'gossip menials'". The Telegraph. 24 August 2002. Archived from the original on 27 September 2002.
  19. ^ "Lyngdoh to vote himself out on Saturday". The Economic Times. 7 February 2004.
  20. ^ "Lyngdoh backs proportional representation, Deccan Chronicle".
  21. ^ "EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS". IRI. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  22. ^ "State Funding for Elections is a Useless thing". The Hindu. 9 February 2011.
  23. ^ "Competition leading to poll malpractices: Lyngdoh". The Hindu. 10 June 2012.