Purno Sangma surely could have been more graceful in defeat. He stands diminished now, both as a presidential candidate and a political leader. His utterances today fit snugly into the pattern of his rather uncharacteristic less-than-dignified campaign in the run-up to the polls. One fears he was being guided by a set of mischievous advisors who were more focused on seeing the rival being embarrassed than Sangma making a fight of it.
“The nation has lost a golden opportunity to show solidarity with the country’s tribals,” Sangma said while conceding defeat. Curious indeed! Did he want the presidential elections to be about tribals vs non-tribals? He must be aware that his success in politics – he had an impressive stint as the Lok Sabha Speaker and as a senior leader of various parties — is not because he is a tribal but because he is a competent politician. Never earlier he felt the need to play the tribal card with such brazenness.
“The process in presidential poll has been partisan and political…We need election code of conduct for presidential poll,” he said, adding subtle threats were issued to many members to make them fall in line. One must call it a case of sour grapes. When the electoral college comprises elected politicians at the national and state levels, it is obvious that the presidential polls cannot be divorced from the politics of the day. Even when the person is a non-politician such as someone like APJ Abdul Kalam, the process is essentially political, thus partisan. It’s interesting he would realise it after the defeat.
His contention that the UPA government used financial packages to woo parties has some merit, as does his call for a code of conduct for the president’s elections too. However, going by how the numbers stood against him from the beginning, it comes across more as an afterthought than a genuine grievance. He secured almost all the NDA votes, barring the JD(U) and Shiv Sena votes. The position of these parties was clear from the beginning.
There was no question of his getting the support from the Samajwadi Party or Mayawati’s BSP or the Trinamool Congress. The support of the BJP had ensured that. It is certain that things could not have worked in his favour had the Centre not extended financial packages to states such as Uttar Pradesh as he claims. Only the margin of loss would have been lower.
It was a shoddy campaign to begin with. He started off commenting that Pranab Mukherjee was ‘overqualified’ for the president’s job. Later on his team busied itself trying to get Mukherjee disqualified on technical grounds, first claiming he held an office of profit while filing nomination papers and his signature on the resignation letter was forged, and then discovering other flaws. He tried to gain some cheap publicity points by challenging his rival to a debate and finding flaws with him as the finance minister of the country.
In the whole process, he seemed oblivious to the fact that he was running for the high office of the President of India, and was not in a contest for a Lok Sabha or assembly seat, where personal attacks are par for the course. Pranab, on a one-on-one basis, was far stronger a candidate. Had all politics been eliminated from the contest, he would still have emerged the winner. The senior Congress leader has personal rapport across the board and commands great respect as a politician.
He was not charitable to the leaders from the North-East too. “People of North-East are no more capable of standing on their own feet. They have become dependent on the central government,” he said. Point taken. But why, Mr Sangma, did not you complain about it earlier? Again, on what solid ground do you argue that they would have voted for you had there been no centre in the picture?
Sangma is contemplating to move the court over the election. One fails to understand why he has to make the defeat so personal. When it comes to courts and legalities one name rings the bell: Subramanian Swamy. Is he the man instigating all this? Quite possible. Though we have no proof that Swamy is behind Sangma’s aggressive post-defeat posturing, we know he has the habit of playing it low and dirty.
Sangma is not known to be a crooked politician. Probably he needs to be careful of his advisors.