India Insight

India’s presidency and a daughter’s defiance ignored … for now

Party politics is pragmatic if nothing else: if you don’t do what the party wants, you’re out … unless you’re Agatha Sangma.

She is the daughter of Purno Sangma, former speaker of India’s lower house of Parliament, who was forced to resign from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) after refusing his boss’s order to withdraw his bid to become India’s next president. The NCP, a key ally of the Congress party, which rules India under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a coalition government, backs the Congress nominee for the post, ex-Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Agatha Sangma, an NCP member and representative of the Tura constituency in the northeast Indian state of Meghalaya, is:

- India’s youngest member of parliament, elected in 2008 at the age of 27

- the youngest ever junior minister (state and rural development, 2009)

She invited the ire of her bosses when she announced her support of her father’s candidacy in public forums and accompanied him to meet the chief minister of the state of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa, to seek support for his presidential run. The poll is on July 19.

Her comment to reporters on why she supports her father instead of the party’s choice sounds like rhetoric. She said that it is time the country got a president from one of India’s “tribes.” Since her father’s name was proposed by a tribal forum, which included her, Agatha Sangma’s support should not be seen as coming from the government or the NCP.

Congress strikes two birds with one stone

Why so much euphoria over the presidential polls? Shouldn’t the government concentrate on the economy; it’s a ceremonial post after all, we thought.

However, the way the election process panned out might be the boost the Congress party needed ahead of the 2014 general elections, not only politically, but even for the economy.

With Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee all set to be India’s 13th president, the party has every reason to cheer, at least for now. The Congress will have the benefit of having one of its most loyal ministers at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, and he can come in handy in 2014.