Before Purno Agitok Sangma’s foray into the national political centrestage, few journalists—leave alone others ---knew about Tura, a small sleepy town tucked away in a corner of Meghalaya. Thanks to Sangma, visiting the town is today almost a must for journalists covering the region.
Undoubtedly, the cherubic and affable Garo’s name and fame has spread far.
The 65-year-old’s four-decade-long political career is chequered like those of few other politicians of his generation. Riding repeated highs and lows, the strongman from Tura has always found a way to bounce back to the headlines. This time around, his vehicle is his bid for the country’s top post at Raisina Hill backed by the main opposition BJP, and the AIADMK and BJD.
And in his characteristic fashion, it is a challenge he has taken on headlong despite a formidable foe who has the numbers stacked behind him. Reports speak of Sangma raising his face heavenwards hoping for a miracle which may just prove elusive this time although he has been scouring around the country seeking support. His plank for the presidential race also rests on his tribal identity, which he has not shied away from using.
While Sangma has a list of achievements to his credit including eight Lok Sabha terms and a stint as Lok Sabha speaker in 1996-98 which won him several admirers, his sense of political timing has often been a subject of criticism.
He raised the banner of revolt in the Congress against Sonia Gandhi in 1999 over her foreign. His subsequent expulsion from the party along with Sharad Pawar also led to the formation of the Nationalist Congress Party—one of the major partners of the UPA coalition. This time too, he has defied his own party’s writ to contest the polls. The Pawar-led NCP has expelled him.
Not one to hold back his punches, Sangma has alleged that prime presidential hopeful Pranab Mukherjee held an office-of-profit which would make him ineligible for the post, and has also leveled graft charges against his rival. Though neither allegation has stuck, Mukherjee cannot rule out any more ambushes from the determined Sangma.