PA Sangma is no lightweight as president candidate, considering his political standing, his ability to win friends across the political divide and his doggedness in pursuing goals. He is a Christian and tribal too. That he belongs to the North-East, a region the country is gradually losing touch with, makes his case stronger.
It’s obvious that he is taking his candidature seriously. It is rather unusual for a man aspiring to be president to launch his own campaign so vigorously — the case of candidate is normally pushed by a party or a combination of parties. But there’s no harm in Sangma pitching for himself. The Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK have already extended support. He has to convince many others to back him.
He has to wage a virtual lone battle since his own party, the NCP, has already denounced his candidature. The BJP is yet to make up its mind though senior leader LK Advani said recently he was not averse to Sangma’s candidature. The Congress has kept its cards close to its chest and other parties are as yet undecided. Given the fact that there’s still more than a month to go for filing of nominations, no party seems to be in a hurry.
But it makes sense for Sangma to start early. His strategy would be to rope in as many allies as possible and get them committed to his cause before the official process to elect the successor of Pratibha Patil kicks in. He gets a clear head-start this way. With good number of votes to fall back on he could force bigger parties to take his case seriously too.
Sangma’s seriousness could be gauged from the fact that he sought to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and seek her support. Gandhi refused him an appointment. It is a prestige issue for the Congress to have its own candidate as president. The party also cannot be oblivious to the fact that Sangma had a bitter parting with the party. She had questioned Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin then.
With the Congress making its position on him clear, Sangma’s only hope is the support from the NDA. He spoke to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today but according to media sources, elicited no clear response on his candidature. Meanwhile, AIADMK J Jayalalithaa has called up a range of leaders, including LK Advani and Mulayam Singh to convince them to back the former Lok Sabha Speaker.
The BJP may not be too averse to his candidature if other NDA allies back him and it fails to find a stronger candidate of its own. But at this point everything is in the realm of speculation. If the Congress decides to nominate Pranab Mukherjee, all equations are likely to change. He would get support from across the political spectrum and Sangma would have no chance then.
However, for now, Sangma is the clear front-runner.