SHILLONG, March 4 - The man who literally halted Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the gates of the Prime Minister�s office has been hailed by Meghalaya legislators as a �true nationalist�great son of the soil� and his decision to walk out of the Congress party over Sonia�s foreign origin as �just�.
Overcome by emotion, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma today left his condolence speech, on Purno Agitok Sangma, midway in the Assembly concluding: �words cannot describe the great leader.�
Mukul was mentored into politics by the former Lok Sabha Speaker. On the other hand, his parents were the teachers of Purno and so he was a frequent visitor to Mukul�s household.
�He made my tribe (Garos) known to the world �about their competence and capabilities,� Mukul said as he choked in his words and sat down and cried, unable to complete his condolence speech during the first day of the Budget session of the Assembly.
The news of Purno Sangma�s demise in New Delhi trickled into the Assembly premises after Governor V Shanmuganathan completed his speech and the House was adjourned briefly.
James Sangma, Purno�s eldest son and National People�s Party legislator, sat through the speech of the Governor, but dashed out after learning about the news.
Former Chief Minister, Salseng C Marak who has been a close associate of Purno said, the void that has been left by his demise would be difficult to be filled. �He made tremendous contributions for the country, region and especially Meghalaya,� Marak said.
Another former Chief Minister, DD Lapang described Purno as a �great man� who had a �global outlook�.
Deputy Chief Minister RC Laloo described Purno as his �political father,� while Paul Lyngdoh of UDP said Purno was his mentor and a father-figure to all the young lawmakers of the State.
The Assembly later adopted a resolution expressing �profound grief and sadness� over the demise and also observed a two minute�s silence in memory of the former Lok Sabha Speaker. A 7 day State mourning has also been declared.
Speaker Abu Taher Mondal said during his condolence message at the Assembly today that he thought Purno Sangma�s decision to walk out of the Congress was just.
Purno Sangma along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar revolted against their party and left it when it was decided that Sonia Gandhi would become the Prime Minister. They formed the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999.
Leader of the Opposition, Donkupar Roy described Purno Sangma as a �true nationalist� for his principled stand over Sonia Gandhi�s foreign origin issue.