Eight times an Lok Sabha member, including a stint as Speaker, and veteran politician from Meghalaya Purno A Sangma is now raising the Garoland banner to earn his ticket to New Delhi.
“If Telangana can be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, then Garoland too is possible. While some groups have been pressing for Garoland through violence, I appeal to all to shun violence,” said Sangma (67), addressing half a dozen election meetings in West Garo hills district here Thursday. The Garos are in a majority in five western Meghalaya districts apart from several pockets in Goalpara and Kamrup in Assam.
A Congress stalwart, Sangma had almost retired from active politics after an unsuccessful attempt to become President of India two years ago.
Sangma first entered Lok Sabha on a Congress ticket in 1977, but later became MP from two different parties — NCP (1999) and All India Trinamool Congress (2004) — before quitting Parliament to return to state politics in March 2008. His daughter Agatha Sangma, elected from Tura Lok Sabha seat in 2009, however has opted out this time clearing the way for her father to contest again, this time as a National People’s Party (NPP)candidate.
“Sooner or later, Garoland is going to be a reality. If you vote for NPP, you vote for Garoland. If you vote for money or alcohol, you know what to do,” Sangma said, interspersing his speech with his typical wit and humour. Sangma who for long has remained silent on the issue, first raised the demand for a separate Garoland at an election meeting at Resubelpara, East Garo Hills, only on March 25.
“The voice of the people is more powerful than guns and grenades. I seek your vote for Garoland. Eschew violence and support me. I will lead the fight and ensure that the Garoland dream is realised,” he said, asking all militant groups to raise their voice through democratic means.
He adds: “Sonia, Manmohan Singh and Rahul have failed to lead the country. That’s why people are rejecting the Congress.”
The Congress has gone all out to ensure Sangma does not return to Lok Sabha. Its candidate Daryl William Cheran Momin is a grandson of Captain Williamson Sangma, first chief minister of Meghalaya. “Daryl is young. A majority of the MLAs belong to the Congress, our candidate is definitely going to register a thumping victory,” said state chief minister Mukul Sangma.