New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) Former Lok Sabha speaker Purno A. Sangma, who along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar revolted against Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 1999, died here on Friday morning following a heart attack. He was 68.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi herself condoled the sudden death of one of the best known politicians from the northeast.
Sangma became a house hold name after presiding over the 11th Lok Sabha from 1996 to 1998 — a time when the country saw coalition politics. A tribal, Sangma was also chief minister of Meghalaya — his home state — from 1988 to 1990.
President Mukherjee said that in his death, “the nation has lost an eminent public figure and multi-faceted personality”.
Vice President Ansari credited Sangma with championing “the mainstreaming of northeastern parts of the country” and working tirelessly for the uplift and improvement of tribal communities.
Modi described Sangma as a self-made leader whose contribution to the development of the northeast was monumental. “Sangma’s tenure as Lok Sabha speaker is unforgettable. His down to earth personality and affable nature endeared him to many.”
Modi paid floral tributes to Sangma at the latter’s residence.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day in tribute after members observed a two-minute silence. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan read out an obituary.
Gandhi said “the nation has lost a tall leader and the northeast has lost an important voice” in Sangma’s passing away.
Sangma for long considered close to the Gandhi family. But in a dramatic moment in 1999, he teamed up with Pawar and Anwar to stage a revolt against Gandhi’s leadership dubbing her a “foreigner”, splitting the Congress.
Sangma, Pawar and Anwar went on to form the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). While Pawar and Anwar later more or less made up with the Congress, Sangma remained staedfastly opposed to the country’s oldest party.
Sangma was elected to the current Lok Sabha from Tura in Meghalaya on the National Peoples Party ticket, the outfit he launched in 2013.
Born on September 1, 1947 in village Chapahati in Meghalaya, Sangma graduated from St Anthony’s College at Shillong. He then went to Dibrugarh University in Assam for master’s in international relations. He also has a degree in law.
The tribal leader donned many caps – of lecturer, lawyer and journalist – before he was catapulted to national politics.
From 1991 to 1996, Sangma was a trusted lieutenant of then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and stewarded ministries like labour and information and broadcasting.
Sangma was also the candidate of the then opposition BJP-led NDA and some regional parties for the 2012 presidential polls when he contested unsuccessfully against his “senior friend” of many years, Mukherjee.
Sangma is survived among others by daughter Agatha Sangma, also a former MP from Tura and a junior minister in then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s government.
His son Conrad Sangma was a minister in the Meghalaya cabinet.