The bizarre moves of a prez candidate
When Grace Staines forgave the killers of her husband and two sons that was an act of Christian charity and forgiveness. When PA Sangma “forgives” the BJD, BJP and Jayalalitha for their various transgressions and assaults on the Christians of India — including the Staines’ — it smacks of political opportunism. Or using whoever’s available to fulfil an ambition. Politics, in other words.
Sangma endeared himself to many as Speaker of the Lok Sabha. When he, Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar were thrown out of the Congress for raising the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, many were impressed with their courage. When they formed the Nationalist Congress Party however two things became clear: Sharad Pawar was the boss and the apple never falls far from the tree.
Except, as it happens, in Sangma’s case. He once hopped off from the NCP wagon to join the Trinamool Congress in 2004 and then came back a year later. His objection was that Pawar was getting too close to Sonia Gandhi. That position however had not changed by 2005 and the NCP has remained a key ally in the UPA. Whatever people have accused Pawar of, and he is well-known for having friends in every political party, he has shied away from tying up officially with the BJP and its friends. The Biju Janata Dal was once part of the NDA and broke away a few years ago. Jayalalitha who heads the AIADMK has been part of the NDA as well and veers closer to it in her thinking than other possible coalition partners.
So just where does Sangma fit into all this? He wants to fight to become President of India, in order to represent India’s tribals and he is proud of the fact that he is a Christian. The President of India is a titular head and barring times of extreme political turmoil is largely a ceremonial post. The only benefit to India’s tribals and Christians in Sangma becoming president will be a token one.
In all this, there is no guarantee that Sangma will even win. He is hoping for a miracle and is not ashamed to say so. Sadly for him, the friends he has chosen to make this miracle come true reflect not too well on him. The NDA is a coalition, which by its proximity to the BJP, is never far away from India’s religious problems. The BJP’s origins lie in majoritarian thinking and in Hindu supremacy. Those who tie up with the BJP, including the JD(U) and its current protestations, know that only too well.
The way politicians behave naturally gives rise to cynicism and that is accepted by most of us no matter how much we dislike it. So when someone claims to do something for a higher cause, he or she is bound to be subjected to greater scrutiny and questioning. Sangma’s case seems therefore more bizarre than most because he is tying up with political parties which are not predisposed to be generous with either tribals or Christians in order to further his tribal and Christian cause. On the face of it, it makes no sense. Sangma’s daughter Agatha meanwhile remains in the NCP and in the UPA as a minister.
Is Sangma a simple man deluded by an idea which he is fond of? Subramaniam Swamy, usually the joker in the pack, now plays the role of Sangma’s spokesperson. Or a savvy politician looking for engagement with what he thinks will be a new dispensation once the current one collapses, since he has once more left the NCP? Or is he just a decoy to confuse the opposition to Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature as president?
Or, sadly for him, will he just be forgotten on the scrap heaps of history on August 20?
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona