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PM, Pranab lead by example, says Agatha Sangma

By The Assam Tribune

Shillong, June 17 (IANS): At 30, Agatha Sangma is the youngest minister in the Union Cabinet but she looks up to two septuagenarians - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee - as role models, saying they "lead by example".

"It is a wonderful experience to work in a government led by such stalwarts as Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee who lead by example and are at the same time sympathetic and understanding when it comes to our lack of experience," said Sangma, who is Minister of State for Rural Development.

Asked how easy or difficult it is for young leaders like her in the government, Sangma told IANS in an interview here: "It is not a matter of easy or difficult, as this depends solely on our commitment to our work."

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP from Tura constituency in Meghalaya said the first few months after she became minister in 2009 were challenging. "But in the ensuing year, I believe I have been successful in pushing various issues. With my background in environmental management, from a policy point of view, I have been successful in incorporating sustainability of water as a 20 percent component in Budget allocation," she said.

She was first elected to the 14th Lok Sabha in a by-election in May 2008, after her father and former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma resigned from the constituency to join State politics. She was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009.

Agatha Sangma said her entry into politics was bound to happen. "I did not choose politics, rather it chose me... My educational background of law and environmental management are not subjects which are contradictory to politics. They have helped me immensely in carrying out my duties as a parliamentarian and also as a minister."

Sangma's two elder brothers - James and Conrad - are legislators in Meghalaya. Conrad is leader of Opposition in the 60-member Assembly.

Asked if it was fair for one family to hold key political posts, she said: "I feel that one should not take such a cynical view of democracy."

"We have to have more faith in the process of democracy and elections. The very foundation of democracy lies in the fact that any citizen with voting rights can contest elections even if they happen to be three siblings from the same family.

"I also feel it is very natural that an engineer's child becomes an engineer or a film actor's child becomes an actor."

She credited her father's political background as well as her own hard work for her election to Parliament.

"I believe it is a combination of both because I cannot deny the legacy that I carry. I also feel my electorate is better placed to answer this question."

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