New Delhi: Former Lok Sabha speaker Purno Agitok Sangma passed way this morning following a heart attack.
Sangma, who unsuccessfully contested the presidential election as an opposition candidate against Pranab Mukherjee, was 68 years old.
The former Meghalaya chief minister was elected to the Lok Sabha 8 times since his first entry to the Lower House in 1977. He was the Lok Sabha Speaker between 1996 and 1998.
Sangma was expelled from the Congress in 1999 along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar for raising a banner of revolt against Sonia Gandhi over her foreign origin issue. Subsequently, the trio formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
However, he left the NCP in 2004 and formed a regional party, which later merged with Trinamool Congress. He later rejoined the NCP, but only to part ways with it later and unsuccessfully contested the presidential election against Pranab Mukherjee. He was supported by BJP, BJD, AIADMK and others.
Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha has been adjourned till March 8 after paying tribute to Sangma.
"We deeply mourn the passing away of PA Sangma ji, I had learnt how to run Lok Sabha with a smile from him," Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said.
PM Modi condoles PA Sangma's demise
Condoling the death of Sangma, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "a self-made leader whose contribution towards the development of the North East is monumental. Saddened by his demise."
Sangma's tenure as Lok Sabha Speaker "is unforgettable. His down-to-earth personality and affable nature endeared him to many," he said, adding "Sangmaji was deeply influenced by Netaji Bose."
Born on September 1, 1947 in village Chapahati in the picturesque West Garo Hills District of Meghalaya, Sangma grew up in the small tribal village and struggled hard to rise in life.
After completing his graduation from St Anthony's College, he went to Dibrugarh University in Assam for his Masters degree in International Relations. Subsequently, he also obtained a degree in Law.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders today condoled the death of former Sangma whom they hailed as a dedicated Parliamentarian and veteran leader.
"The nation has lost a tall leader and the North-East has lost an important voice," Sonia Gandhi said in a message.
Rahul recalled the contribution of Sangma as a public representative, Union Minister, Chief Minister and Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
"Deepest condolences on the passing away of veteran leader & former LS Speaker Shri PA Sangma. His demise is a great loss to the nation," Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter.
Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said it is "very saddening" to hear about the sudden demise of Sangma.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh expressed grief over the death of Sangma whom he hailed as a "most affable and likeable person."
Pawar also took to micro-blogging site to express grief over the death. "PA Sangma vibrant, dedicated parliamentarian & effective speaker. My close companion! Heartfelt tribute to him. Champion of northeast issues," he said.
"The tragic demise of PA Sangma creates a deep void. I share my deepest condolences at this moment of grief," NCP leader and former Union Minister Praful Patel tweeted.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "As Speaker of Lok Sabha, he had set very high standards in the conduct of proceedings of the House. His warm and affable personality will be remembered forever. His passing away is a great loss to the nation. My heartfelt condolences to his family members. May his soul rest in peace."
Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who was Railway Minister in 1996 when Sangma was Speaker, said the latter was not only a tribal leader and "tallest" leader in North East but a national figure.
Paswan recalled that only four days back he had interacted with Sangma.
Lok Sabha MP Kalvakuntala Kavita, daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, said that a strong voice from North Eastern has gone with Sangma's sudden demise. "Had seen him in the Parliament for past two days. Shocking to know," she said while condoling Sangma's demise. Chief Ministers of various states also expressed grief over the demise of the leader.
Rajasthan Chief minister Vasundhara Raje in her condolence message said that Sangma during his tenure as the Speaker maintained high standards of parliamentary traditions.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted, "Saddened and shocked at the passing away of Purno Sangma. Fond memories of him in Lok Sabha. My condolences to his family. Rest in Peace."
Former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan said, "My condolences on the sad demise of P A Sangma. Former Speaker, a distinguished parliamentarian and a true leader from North East."
Former Union Minister Milind Deora said, "Saddened to hear about P A Sangma. He was an outstanding parliamentarian and a gregarious and popular leader."