Sangma family to battle it out in Meghalaya by-poll

May 21st, 2008 - 11:16 am ICT by admin  

Tura (Meghalaya), May 21 (IANS) The by-election for the Tura parliamentary seat in the northeastern state of Meghalaya scheduled for Thursday is turning out to be some sort of a family affair for nine-time MP and former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Agitok Sangma. The ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate is Agatha Kongkal Sangma, the youngest daughter of the veteran parliamentarian, while Boston Marak, contesting as an independent, is the son of Sangma’s elder brother.

The Tura seat fell vacant after Purno Sangma resigned as an MP to contest the Meghalaya assembly elections earlier this year.

The senior Sangma after winning the Tura assembly seat is now the Chairman of the Meghalaya Planning Board, although he is literally the de facto chief minister of the state.

The fight for the prestigious Tura parliamentary seat, earlier held by Sangma for a record nine times, will be between Agatha and the Congress candidate Zenith Sangma.

An estimated 400,000 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in Thursday’s vote that begins at 7 a.m. Counting will be held Sunday.

The senior Sangma launched his two sons - Conrad and James - into politics earlier this year. The two brothers contested the assembly elections for their father’s party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Both won the polls - Conrad is now a cabinet minister in charge of the high profile finance, tourism, power and a few more departments, while James is the parliamentary secretary for home affairs. Now the youngest of the siblings, Agatha, is being blooded into politics.

Is Sangma trying to follow in the footsteps of the Gandhi family by encouraging dynastic rule?

“Sangma is trying to encourage his family for power only,” a senior Congress leader said. Even in some of the Congress election meetings, some speakers raised this issue.

“I am not trying to encourage any dynastic rule. Both my sons are foreign educated and it is our duty to pay the state back. We need educated people in politics,” Sangma responded.

“Even my daughter is a highly educated person.” The only person not interested in active politics is Sangma’s wife.

Tura, dominated by the Garo tribe to which he belongs, has been Sangma’s bastion. It has elected him to parliament nine times since 1977 and twice to the state assembly.

Agatha is a lawyer by profession and was practising in New Delhi before she was initiated into politics. She has a masters degree in environmental management from the School of Geography in Britain’s Nottingham University.

Prior to the assembly elections in March, the senior Sangma decided to quit national politics. He had left state politics 22 years ago but made a mark nationally by getting elected to the Lok Sabha as many as nine times from his native Tura constituency and being one of the most high-profile speakers the lower house of parliament has seen. He was earlier Meghalaya’s chief minister on two occasions.

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