NPP president Conrad Sangma speaks about his new role and future plans in post Purno era
From C K Nayak
NEW DELHI: Just over a couple of weeks ago, Conrad Kongkal Sangma, a London educated management graduate and the youngest to become Meghalaya’s finance minister, was still primarily known as the son of Purno Agitok Sangma. Born in 1978, the young man from Garo hills used to campaign for his father, then in Congress, when he was only a teen. However, fate, family and politics have now forced the young Conrad to step into the shoes of his towering father, Late Purno Sangma.
With elder brother James Sangma, an NPP MLA, working as the chief whip of opposition combine in the Assembly and sister Agatha Sangma concentrating on the P A Sangma Foundation, it was left to Conrad to take up the mantle of the party his late father had founded in 2013.
Hence, Conrad now is the president of the National People’s Party. The former leader of opposition in Meghalaya is also likely to contest the Tura Lok Sabha seat rendered vacant by the death of the former NPP supremo.
After his father’s death, Conard spoke to The Shillong Times in the very room where the ever smiling Purno Sangma used to sit and talk to visitors.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
ST: Are you contesting the Tura by-election?
Conrad: The Election Commission is yet to declare the dates for the election. So we will have to wait for that. Moreover, it has been only a couple of weeks since the demise of our father; hence, we as a family have not got the time to think about the poll.
Secondly, I have just been elected as the national president of the NPP which is a huge responsibility in itself and the party workers have expectations (from me). Hence, I will need to focus on party work, not just for Meghalaya but also in the rest of the Country where we have units. Only after finishing that and after consulting other leaders we can take a decision about Tura. But we will contest the polls and the NPP supremo’s legacy will be retained.
ST: Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has made it clear that the Congress will contest the Tura poll despite appeal against it from the NPP state unit. What are your comments?
Conrad: Dr Sangma and my father have had a long relationship which started with his parents teaching my father in school. My father had seen him grow and he has seen my father right since his early days in politics. Dr Sangma and his family came and supported us during the time of the funeral. I would like to thank him for all his support during that difficult period. Keeping the stature of our father in mind and his contribution to Garo Hills, Meghalaya and the Nation as a whole, it would be a fitting honour to him if the election went unopposed. But whatever decision the Congress takes in its wisdom is its internal matter and I have nothing to say about it.
ST: Mukul Sangma has compared Tura seat with Chokpot Assembly seat for which polls were held few months ago. What is your take?
Conrad: I would not like to draw comparisons between Tura and Chokpot by-election, but all I can say is that both (Purno Sangma and Clifford Marak) were great leaders who were committed to the people and their cause.
ST: In the upcoming Tura polls what will be the main issue for campaigning?
Conrad: We really have not been able to sit and discuss election as a party and as a family. Though I feel this election is more about remembering our father, our leader and his contribution to the people, there are many issues affecting the State but I feel it is not appropriate to discuss those at this juncture.
ST: Will the party retain the Tura seat in the absence of Purno Sangma?
Conrad: One can never predict the result of elections. It will depend entirely on the people. All I can say is that even though our father is no more with us, we are committed to take his vision and work forward and will work with full commitment towards our people.
ST: But even for the CEM slot, the Congress has sent its own nominee even though your nomination to the Council by the NPP-led EC is still pending.
Conrad: What has happened is very unfortunate and wrong. The rules of the GHADC are very clear in context of nomination of a member where it is the District Council that advices and recommends and the Governor appoints.
ST: But why was your name proposed for the CEM’s post when you did not even contest the polls?
Conrad: It is the elected Executive Members who wanted me to lead the Council. Hence it is for their demand that my name was proposed for the CEM’s post and since I did not contest my name was nominated for nominated post as per GHADC rules and acts. I have been very clear from the beginning that I want to help the Council and do whatever possible to bring reforms and I am not interested in the CEM’s post. Accordingly I have been working in the Council in whatever capacity possible even though my name was not cleared by Mukul Sangma.
ST: There are reports that Congress is trying to topple the GHADC headed by NPP. What is your take?
Conrad: It is clear that the Congress wants to topple the NPP, GNC, BJP, GHPA coalition in the Council. The fact that my name for nomination was kept pending for five months and the recent proposal of Selma D Shira’s name are clear indications of the Congress’ intention. We have started reforms in the GHADC which are starting to show results. After running the Council for 5 months we have come across many areas where lot of misutilisation of funds and non adherence to rules were carried out by the past EC which was led by Congress. Also, the NDA Government at the Centre has decided to give Rs 100 cr funding to the GHADC. Maybe all these above factors are making them desperate and leading them to this decision.
ST: Can you fill the void left by your illustrious father?
Conrad: The void can never be filled. But we will try our best to fulfill his hopes and aspirations for the tribal people of the country particularly those of Meghalaya to the best of our abilities.