GUWAHATI: The rise of P A Sangma, who passed away on Friday, aged 68, has been a fairytale. From humble beginnings in a nondescript tribal village in Meghalaya, he rose to the office of Speaker of Lok Sabha by virtue of his talent and perseverance. Sangma was a nine-time Member of Parliament and a former Meghalaya Chief Minister. He reached the highest point of his political career in 1996 when he became the Lok Sabha Speaker.
After a long stint in Parliament, he returned to state politics in 2008. He did not contest the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and instead fielded his daughter Agatha, who went on to become a Minister in UPA II. She resigned midway through her term as Minister after Sangma parted ways with the Nationalist Congress Party, following his fallout with Sharad Pawar on the issue of his contesting the Presidential election. After remaining aloof from mainstream politics for five years, Sangma returned to the national scene, winning the 2014 elections on the ticket of the Nationalist Political Party, which he redesigned.
The former Congress and NCP biggie, who was first elected to Parliament in 1977, served as Chief Minister of Meghalaya from 1988 to 1990. In 1999, months after he had demitted the office of Lok Sabha Speaker, he was expelled from the Congress, along with Pawar and Tariq Anwar, for revolting against Sonia Gandhi on the issue of her foreign origin. Subsequently, he and Pawar co-founded NCP. He later split the NCP and merged his faction with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, forming the Nationalist Trinamool Congress.
“I have changed parties on principle, not for my personal benefits,” Sangma had once told this correspondent.
Born in 1947, Sangma finished his graduation from St Anthony’s College and pursued a post-graduation degree in International Relations from Dibrugarh University, Assam. He then obtained a degree in law. Before joining politics, he was a lecturer, lawyer and journalist. He started his political life with the Congress and quickly became vice president and then general secretary of the Pradesh Youth Congress.
He had served as Minister in various central ministries. The down-to-earth Sangma was respected for his sagacity, humility, wit and impartiality. As Lok Sabha Speaker, he conducted House proceedings with élan even when he was in difficult situations.
If he had earned the reputation of an outstanding Speaker, it was because of his concern for decorum, freedom and dignity of the House. “Sangma strode like a colossus on the political firmament and worked relentlessly for the development of Meghalaya and the Northeast… His amiable and affable nature endeared him to everyone who met him,” Assam CM Tarun Gogoi said.