| Pranab Mukherjee pays tribute to a statue of Rabindranath Tagore at Brookside on Monday. Telegraph picture |
Shillong, Oct. 21: President Pranab Mukherjee not only came to Meghalaya. He also came to the state belonging to his opponent in the 2012 presidential elections —Purno Agitok Sangma.
In his maiden speech on the floor of the Meghalaya Assembly, Mukherjee, however, did not forget to mention P. A. Sangma’s name as he listed some of the eminent personalities from the state who had made a mark at the national level.
He started by naming J.J.M. Nichols Roy. According to Mukherjee, Roy had made substantial contributions to the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly which drafted the Constitution.
Mukherjee also made a mention of Meghalaya’s first chief minister Capt. Williamson A. Sangma while referring to P.A. Sangma as former Lok Sabha Speaker. Names of former Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker and ambassador G.G. Swell and former Union minister P.R. Kyndiah featured in the presidential address.
“You are in the process of building your state. I am with you in your efforts to build a mini-India in this beautiful land where people from different cultures, faiths, customs, and usage can live in peace and harmony,” he said.
Delivering the vote of thanks, chief minister Mukul Sangma said it was unfortunate that because of the bandh call given by a “proscribed unlawful outfit, people have been prevented from participating in it in a befitting manner”.
“However, it is also very encouraging that some enlightened civil society groups have come out openly defying the call and organised a public rally as well as a music concert welcoming the visit of the President,” the chief minister said.
He also told the President that the outfit had given a similar call earlier to boycott the elections to the Legislative Assembly. The public gave a resounding rebuff by turning out in record numbers with polling percentage as high as 86 in the Khasi and Jaintia hills region, he added.
“We had witnessed a similar response from the public of the Garo hills region when another outfit had given a call for an extended bandh there. This gives us the hope that with active support of a vigilant public, we shall be able to neutralise these outfits which are causing immense harm to the interests of our people and the image of our state,” Sangma said.
At the same time, he drew the President’s attention to the lack of opportunities in the region. “The Northeast is yet to fully recover from the ill effects of Partition in terms of dislocation of trade and commercial ties, disruption of access to nearby markets and breakdown in connectivity. Fresh infrastructure to restore connectivity with the rest of the country is still not fully in place. Inter-regional and intra-regional connectivity remain a major constraint even now. As a result, the huge potential in tourism, horticulture and floriculture has remained untapped as yet,” he added.
On Meghalaya, he said, while the state has moved ahead, the rest of the country has moved ahead much faster.
“There are studies to show that the per capita income of our state, indeed our region, was higher than the national average at the time of our Independence. But today, we are lagging behind the national average. This can be attributed largely to the impact of Partition, though there are many other factors as well which are well within the knowledge of our President,” the chief minister said.