Govt declares seven-day mourning Funeral on Monday in Tura
From CK Nayak and Cosmos Sangma
NEW DELHI/ TURA: The last rites of Tura MP and former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Agitok Sangma will take place in Tura on Monday where a State funeral will be accorded to the late leader.
The tallest leader from the North East for decades passed away in his sleep at around 9 AM at his residence in Delhi following a massive heart attack on Friday.
The official residence of Purno at the Abdul Kalam Marg (formerly Aurangzeb Road) was full of who’s who of the national capital. Most cabinet ministers and leaders cutting across party lines thronged the house near the Meghalaya House.
A special plane will carry the remains of Purno to Guwahati and from there it will be flown to Tura in an IAF chopper.
Union ministers Sarbananda Sonowal, Kiren Rijiju and Jitendra Singh will accompany the body to Tura on Saturday. Members of Parliament from the State – Vincent Pala and Wansuk Syiem – will also be part of the delegation.
Deborah Marak, Dikkanchi D. Shira and Bluebell Sangma, who arrived in Delhi to attend a conference on women, rushed to the official residence of the late leader on Friday evening.
AICC general secretary in charge Meghalaya V. Narayanasamy also paid his last respect.
Prayer meeting attended by lyricist Javed Akhtar and other prominent personalities continued till late Friday night.
Many Congress leaders from Delhi are scheduled to attend the funeral in Tura on Monday.
Meghalaya Governor V. Shanmuganathan will leave for Guwahati on Saturday to meet the family members in Tura to convey his condolences.
State Home Minister Roshan Warjri will leave for Tura on Sunday.
Pala and Syiem were the first to arrive at the bed side at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and then at the residence.
Earlier in the day, in the absence of the family, the MPs and staff of Meghalaya House played host to the teeming dignitaries.
Staff and family members at the house said that Purno continued to meet people till late in the night and had some appointments fixed for Friday.
But when he did not get up even around 9.30 AM the help went to serve tea to Purno and tried to wake him up but he did not respond. They immediately rushed him to hospital in an ambulance where doctors declared him brought dead. “We only prepared formalities like making death certificate and embalming the body,” one of the doctors told The Shillong Times.
Till his last day Purno attended the Lok Sabha session and was listed to speak on the budget. He had health problems during the last Lok Sabha polls for which he campaigned in wheel chair but he was fit and fine till the last hours.
Purno apparently made a last attempt to get up from bed may be during the early hours of the morning following the heart attack but could not get up. His one leg was out of bed indicating that he tried to get up but in vain.
The nine time MP was 68 and is survived by his wife Sorodini Sangma, two sons – former MLA Conrad Sangma and sitting legislator James Sangma – and two daughters – former MP from Tura Agatha Sangma and Christie Sangma – who is currently residing in Australia, besides grandchildren.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan announced the news of his death in the House, which was adjourned for the day paying last respect to the former Speaker who ran it most smoothly and brought many reforms in the legislature.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who once pushed Purno for the highest constitutional post of President was one among the first to reach the hospital to pay respect.
President Pranab Mukherjee, against whom Porno had contested, said in a condolence message sent to his wife, “I am sad to learn about the passing away of your husband. Please accept my heartfelt condolences and convey them to all members of your family. I pray to the Almighty to give you and your family the strength and courage to bear this irreparable loss.”
Vice President Hamid Ansari, who had released one of his books, also condoled his demise.
While expressing deep grief over Sangma’s demise, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who arrived along with the Prime Minister said he knew how to run the House with a smile and added, “I learnt this from him.”
Sonia Gandhi, with whom Purno fell out on her ‘foreign nationality’ issue, said that the nation had lost a tall leader and the North East had lost an important voice.
Condoling the death of Sangma, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was a self-made leader whose contribution towards the development of the Northeast is monumental. Sangma’s tenure as Lok Sabha Speaker ‘is unforgettable’.
His down-to-earth personality and affable nature endeared him to many,” Modi said, adding “Sangmaji was deeply influenced by Netaji Bose.”
Born on September 1, 1947, Purno was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977 and never lost an election. But from 2008 to 2013 the Tura seat was held by his youngest daughter Agatha Sangma following Purno’s decision to return to state politics.
He was also a lawyer and journalist prior to his plunge in the sea of politics.
He was elected as the Tura MLA in 2008 and went on to form a coalition government with the regional UDP for a brief spell of about a year before it collapsed and the Congress returned to power in Meghalaya.
In 1977, he was elected to the 6th Lok Sabha from Tura (Lok Sabha constituency) and remained a member of the Lok Sabha until 14th Lok Sabha, except for the 9th Lok Sabha. From 1980 to 1988, he served the Union Government of India under various capacities. He served as the Chief Minister of Meghalaya from 1988 to 1990. In 1991, when he was elected to the Lok Sabha again, he again served the Union government until 1996 when he became Speaker of Lok Sabha.
Sangma who was the NCP general secretary was expelled from the Congress on May 20, 1999, along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar for raising the banner of revolt against Sonia Gandhi over her foreign origin issue. He was one of the founders of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar in 1999.
In January 2004, Sangma created a split in the NCP. This happened after Sharad Pawar became close to the NCP’s former rival Sonia Gandhi.
After losing a battle for the NCP election symbol, Sangma later merged his faction with the current Chief Minister of West Bengal and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, forming the Nationalist Trinamool Congress. He resigned from his Lok Sabha seat on October 10, 2005 as a member of AITMC/TMC, and was re-elected as NCP candidate on February 2006.
In the Lok Sabha elections in 2004, Sangma was one of two NTC MPs elected. He resigned from the 14th Lok Sabha in March 2008, to take part in Meghalaya Legislative Assembly election.
Sangma resigned from NCP on June 20, 2012 after opposition from Sharad Pawar over his Presidential candidature.
Sangma whose candidature has been proposed by AIADMK, and BJD and later, supported by BJP as well, contested against Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President.
He lost to Pranab Mukherjee in the results declared on July 23, 2012.
On January 5, 2013, Sangma launched the National People’s Party at the national level. The NPP secured two seats of Meghalaya Legislative Assembly in the 2013 polls.