P A Sangma as I knew him

Sangamma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Rekha Bhattacharjee

March 4th 2016 saw the passing away of a great stalwart of the North East India.

His calling was politics – although a lawyer by profession and a journalist too. He became the Vice President of Youth Congress in 1973. Four years later was elected to the Lok Sabha from Tura – a constituency he represented continuously over nine terms. As a young Minister appointed by late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi – he remained over twelve years serving in various ministries till 1996. He was propelled so high no one could defeat him. But as the saying goes – his ‘Greatest Glory’ was when he was appointed Speaker of Lok Sabha in 1996 at the age of 49 – elected unanimously – the first Speaker from the Opposition, a first as a Christian and a first as a tribal! His stint as Speaker is remembered to date as having total control over the House – rules were observed in the midst of all debates.

PA Sangma “A Speaker from an era when Parliament worked”!

He was a charismatic figure – humorous and articulate with a mind of his own.

“PA Sangma – A life in politics” his book – had speeches and lectures 1979 to 2004. He stirred the hornets nest as he had taken on the rural based parliamentarians –

accusing them of disturbing the functioning of the House. “Now a days members of parliament run to the well of the House, disturbing the business of the House primarily to get himself noticed – said Mr Sangma who had once famously walked out of Congress over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin issue.

“Prime Minister should be a member of Lok sabha with a population of more than 1.2 Billion people. India is capable enough of producing an able prime minister.” Said Sangma. In 1999 Sangma left Congress and joined NCP with former Congress stalwart Sharad Pawar.

On a personal note – I was fortunate to know late PA Sangma since  1984 in New Delhi then in Meghalaya for the Congress Centenary which had late Rajiv Gandhi as chief guest – just before the elections. As Speaker he and his wife visited Sydney for a few days and I got to be with them. After 1999 I got to meet them in Assam and Meghalaya – more so as he was wooing my cousin late Bhrigu Phookan the former AGP leader to join NCP. It was in Bhrigu’s house that I met Mr Sharad Pawar with Mr Sangma . They did manage to win him over.

Pleasantly, I recall an incident in New Delhi while he was the Lok Sabha Speaker. I was visiting them. At that time Mr Chidambaram was in his office to whom I was introduced too. Both Mrs Sangma and Mr Sangma insisted I had dinner with them.

Three of us at the table – what took me by surprise / taken aback – As we were eating Sangma found something tasty in his plate – thus he took some and put it on my plate to eat! I quickly realised a tribal hospitality to people they considered close!

Rest in eternal peace – pray for your family to bear this unbearable loss at 68.

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