This assembly election, Purno Agitok Sangma’s appeal is on test in his own backyard — Meghalaya’s western half dominated by the Garo tribe he belongs to.
From the high of Lok Sabha speaker during the NDA regime, Sangma’s political graph has been shooting southward. In a tad more than a decade, he moved from a national party (Congress) to the smaller NCP before going regional with the National People’s Party (NPP) last year.
Sangma took over the NPP, a Manipur-based party that catered to certain tribes. The NPP, which is contesting 32 of Meghalaya’s 60 seats, provided him the political space after he quit the NCP to contest the presidential poll. Sangma, then in the NCP, had stitched an alliance with two regional outfits to form the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance government in 2008.
The regional allies deserted him to help the Congress form the Meghalaya United Alliance government a year later.
Sangma is not contesting this time, but the NPP is banking on his magic, targeting 24 seats. “A coalition in Meghalaya is inevitable and we are setting realistic goals,” said Sangma, whose two-year reign as chief minister (Congress) ended with a coup in 1990.
But will the people accept him as a regional entity? “Here, personality matters more than parties or their symbols. My victory margin widened with every election notwithstanding the party I represented. The people’s love for me is still strong,” he said. The NPP hopes this goodwill works on polling day — February 23.