P A Sangma: Tallest north-eastern leader

Purno Agitok Sangma, a politician from the Northeast, died of a heart attack here on Friday at the age of 68.

The Lok Sabha, of which he was Speaker two decades ago, was adjourned for the day. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan made the announcement of his death and said she learnt from the leader, who used to run the House with a smile as its presiding officer from 1996 to 1998. He was elected to the Lower House nine times. Mr. Sangma, who was born in 1947 at Chapahati in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, earned an MA in International Relations from Dibrugarh University in Assam and studied law.

The first big political break for Purno Agitok Sangma came when he became general secretary of the Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee in 1975. He became Minister of State for Commerce and Civil Supplies in the Rajiv Gandhi government in the 1980s.

From 1988 to 1990, he served as Meghalaya Chief Minister. He served as a Minister of State for Coal (independent charge) in the Narasimha Rao government in the 1990s.

Sangma broke away from the Congress, along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar, in 1999, raising the banner of revolt against Sonia Gandhi’s leadership. They founded the Nationalist Congress Party.

He was expelled from the party in 2012 when he refused to accept its decision to back out of the election for President of India.

He took on Pranab Mukherjee, supported by the BJP and some other parties. After he lost, he filed a petition against the election of Mukherjee.

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