Children set stage for thaw

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By NISHIT DHOLABHAI in Delhi
  • Published 2.06.09
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New Delhi, June 2: Purno A. Sangma’s children are bringing him and Sonia Gandhi together.

The Nationalist Congress Party leader came to 10 Janpath yesterday to invite the UPA chairperson to the June 7 wedding reception of his son Conrad, who got married last week. With him was daughter Agatha, 28, whose induction into the Union ministry would have thawed the ice between Sangma and Sonia.

This was the first time in a decade that the former Lok Sabha Speaker was meeting the Congress president under such cordial circumstances.

Sangma had been expelled from the Congress in 1999 along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar after they virtually ran a campaign against Sonia, saying her foreign origins made her unsuitable to lead the country. The trio then formed the NCP.

Over the years, the NCP became a Congress ally in Maharashtra and Pawar joined the Union cabinet. But in Meghalaya, Sangma’s home state, the two parties remained enemies. When Sangma’s other daughter, Christine, married a few years ago, no personal invite came to 10 Janpath.

Last month, however, Sangma declared the foreign origin issue was now dead since Sonia had “refused to be Prime Minister not once but twice”. Agatha, who was called to join the ministry about the same time, too said the controversy should be buried since her father had publicly said he had no problem with Rahul Gandhi becoming Prime Minister.

Sangma is expected to personally invite Rahul and Priyanka Vadra to the wedding reception of Conrad, 31, and wife Mehtab Chandi A. Sangma. “Mrs Gandhi will definitely come,” a source close to the NCP leader claimed, adding that appointments had been sought with Sonia’s children.

Some analysts believe the Congress wants to use Sangma as a buffer against Pawar. Sources said the tide in the Congress-Sangma relationship began turning after March when the Meghalaya leader was left disappointed with Pawar’s failure to prevent President’s rule in the state, which was under NCP’s coalition rule with local party UDP.

When the Congress looked to form a government in the state, the sources said, Sonia initially backed an alliance with the NCP but the plan was abandoned because of opposition on the ground. The Congress later formed a government with the UDP.