Race for President
Jyoti Lal Chowdhury, Silchar
The support of Bharatiya Janata Party to Purno Agitok Sangma for the presidential race to Raisina has been described by analysts and observers as a ‘right decision’ considered against the broader perspective and the changing political scenario as well as power equation. Arithmetic apart and notwithstanding the unquestionable prospect of Pranab Mukherjee, Congress candidate to be at the highest citadel of power of the country, the move of BJP is well calculated and well thought of after APJ Abdul Kalam opted out.
As Kabindra Purkayastha, MP of Silchar and founding father of the base of the party in north-east said, “the declared policy of BJP is to create wider space and reach every nook and corner of the country and carry the tribals of all shades not only of north-east but of the country as a whole since their heavy presence and important role in Indian politics can hardly be overlooked”. Besides, the anti Christian campaign against the party as well as the stigma of being communal by deliberately bringing in the reference of Narandra Modi will be greatly offset. Significantly, PA Sangma is both an influential tribal and Christian leader of north-east. With his clean image and also the most trusted politician, he has made a wider impact on Indian politics. His skill and ability as the Lok Sabha Speaker has earned him applause from all the political parties and the people of the country.
Kabindra Purkayastha said the support of his party has to be seen from yet another angle. Congress has taken the decision, rather quite unilaterally, to rally behind Pranab Mukherjee without taking the opposition into confidence. As the biggest opposition party, BJP cannot back Mukherjee as it will send a wrong signal. From all reckoning, Sangma is the right choice who fits into the thought-process of their party. By making him the President of the greatest democracy in the world, BJP wants to utilise his potentiality and propensity for the nation.
The BJP stalwart pointed out it is their party which has done its best for the development of the north-east region. He reminded it was during the NDA regime under Atal Bihari Vajpayee that Doner (Development of North East Region) Ministry was created. It is the dictum of equal progress for all regions that guides his party. And that his party has despite all the adverse campaign proved that it is neither communal nor anti Christian. It was BJP which backed Abdul Kalam Azad and made him the President of India. Further, Goa election results of the last polls and the triumph of BJP to be at the seat of power could be possible because of the support of the Christians of the state.
In a significant development, the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) in north-east has been rocked by ripples and rumbles which forced P.A. Sangma to quit the party and resign. Though her daughter Agatha Sangma, two time NCP MP from Tura in Meghalaya and currently a Minister of State in the Union Ministry of Dr Manmohan Singh, has been barred from campaigning for her father, it has created a piquant situation in the family and also in the party. Agatha’s brother and leader of the opposition in the Meghalaya assembly, Conrad Kongkal Sangma admitted it was a great loss for the party in the north-east. He said it was for the cause of tribals, the north-east and Christians that his father resigned. He is trying to make the voice of tribals, the people of the region and Christians heard, Conrad added. The NCP has influence in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur assemblies. Significantly, Sangma’s another son James is also an MLA in Meghalaya Assembly.
The north-east units of the NCP, according to a report from Shillong, are not happy with the decision of its central leadership which is supporting Pranab Mukherjee. On May 29, the north-east coordination committee of NCP has decided to back Sangma in the Presidential polls. Though the electoral college arithmetic indicate a handsome win for Mukherjee, the Garo leader is banking on conscience votes. It is expected that many tribal leaders would vote for him irrespective of the decision of their party. After being assured of the support of AIDMK and BJD, P.A. Sangma has got the support of BJP, Akali Dal and AGP.
The Meghalaya state BJP general secretary Dipayan Chakraborty called upon political parties and people to change their perceptions about the party. BJP has proved by supporting P.A. Sangma that it is ‘accommodative.’ L.K. Advani could have been projected instead, he pointed out. The NCP should rather be grateful to BJP’s decision to support Sangma. Way back in 1992, BJP with its very inception in the Christian state supported Prof G.G. Swell, a Christian from the state, for the post of President. The party had also thought of supporting P C Alexander for the post of President, but Congress stood on the way, he recalled. However, it was with the support of BJP that he was elected to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.
In the final analysis, BJP by backing P.A. Sangma has sent the message clear that it is playing neither tribal nor Christian card as is being speculated and misread by its opponents but the decision is based purely on nationalist perspective. BJP might not stand to gain from the results of the Presidential polls, but in the long run, as analysts point out, it will have many grey areas to further expand and strengthen its base in the north east and other areas where it is yet to make its presence felt. In a significant development, Conrad, the son of P.A. Sangma, claimed growing support for his father and urged the people to rise above politics and said “This is the closest that in many years to come that a person from Meghalaya, a tribal, will ever get to be elected as President of the country. I don’t see this in many years to come, I am hoping to see positive response, I hope the opportunity be taken by all leaders of the NE,” Conrad said. The NCP leader confirmed that the state unit of the NCP would continue under “status quo” as of now, adding that in politics, “anything can happen.”