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PA Sangma
HindustanTimes.com, PTI
New Delhi, April 20, 2004
First Published: 18:00 IST(20/3/2004)
Last Updated: 13:17 IST(20/4/2004)

From an upright Lok Sabha Speaker (1991-97) and darling of media to an opportunist and scheming politician, it's been a long journey for Purno Agitok Sangma.

There was a time when he was the Solomon himself, the man who presided over the House during a Congress Govt, during United Front rule and almost got the job again when BJP came to power in 1998.

Behind the disarming demeanour lies a shrewd political mind  -- one that still packs an election time punch.

The 56-year-old, who first raised the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and caused theCongress split in 1999 has not exhausted his cards yet. Parting ways with NCP chief Sharad Pawar over the latter's tie-up with Sonia's party, he has activated his North East People's Forum politically and tied up with NDA Govt. Likely to formally join BJP, Sangma's latest aim is to decimate Congress in North East which had sent 25 Congressmen to 13th Lok Sabha.

For decades, his political base has been the Tura seat in Meghalaya. A Garo tribal, winning Tura is not at all difficult, whatever his political affiliation.

He was synonumous with Congress for over two decades. But the clock symbol got him 63% vote in 1999,, reduing the official Congress nominee to a humble 23%.

Actually, it was Tura from where it all began. He entered politics in 1971 as Congress candidate from Tura which was a Congress borough then. Seven victories later it's now Sangma's backyard.

But life has not been so smooth for Sangma. He was forced to quit school at 12. His father had died and there was no money at home. An Italian missionary Antonio Buccieri took care of him and he enrolled in a night college, working the day to pay his fees.

His marriage to Suradini was teh second turning point of his life.

He has been a lecturer, a lawyer and a journalist but it was in politics that he found his real worth. He became Meghalaya Youth Congress office bearer as early as 1974. Delhi became his second home after 1977. He returned to Meghalaya as CM in 1988.

The 1990s really made him a first-page story. He had been Union Minister but the job of speaker made the icing of his 'career cake'.

And as the polls approach, he is writing a new political script, in saffron colours.


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