Many would recall that during the late nineties when the Lok Sabha would plunge into chaos, the Chair of the Speaker would actually be smiling.
Only much later that Speaker, Purno Ajitok Sangma shared the secret; he said he would slip in pages of his favourite Tom and Jerry and read the comic book while the members were fighting.
Probably one of the most charming Speakers to have chaired the Lok Sabha, Mr Sangma an original Congressman and later a dissenter has always managed to be in the news. Just when his political career was being written off, he surprised his colleagues, running for the highest office as the first tribal candidate. His claim seemed legitimate. When his party , the NCP, refused to support his candidature, he resigned from the party.
Mr Sangma argued that if " Muslims, Sikh, Scheduled Castes and a woman have all occupied this seat so why shouldn't a tribal?"
When he realised that the tribal card was potent enough he toured across the country, campaigned hard and managed to secure support of Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa. He says he even contacted the UPA ally Magmata Banerjee to support him. "I'm a candidate from tribal forum of India - not from any party and I'm contacting all political parties for support in that capacity," he says.
His chances will be affected greatly by whether the BJP-led NDA decides to back him.
The JD (U), a key constituent of the NDA, is also not keen on a contest as the UPA have the numbers but a section of BJP wants the contest and it's not averse to backing Mr. Sangma. And if a contest happens, BJP too may seek Mamata Banerjee's support for Mr Sangma.
Mr Sangma was born in 1947 in a village in West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. After his post-graduation he taught in a college for some time and earned a degree in law. Trappings of power haven't changed his simple upbringing. His home is still open to all and even today his kitchen in Tura caters to at least 150 people every day. His wife otherwise reticent to media, prefers to be in charge of taking care of the home and the hearth.
Mr Sangma has had a record 9 consecutive Parliament terms since 1977 till the 14th Lok Sabha. For two years he also became the Chief Minister of Meghalaya and has always played a significant role in state politics. Today his daughter is one of the youngest MPs and a Minister in the UPA government. His sons are legislators in the Meghalaya Assembly; the eldest, the leader of the opposition.
Since the eighties he has been a Union Minister but it was his tenure as Lok Sabha Speaker which made him immensely popular.
Mr Sangma's tirade against Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin was seen as the biggest defiance by a Congress loyalist. He was expelled from the party and he along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar went on to form the Nationalist Congress Party. He still held on to his Parliament seat and continued to remain relevant in national politics.
When Sharad Pawar was getting close to Sonia Gandhi, Mr Sangma again defied and flirted with Mamata's Trinamool forming the Nationalist Trinamool Congress but soon returned to NCP where he is the General Secretary of the party. But defiance comes naturally to Mr Sangma and this time too he has gone against his party's line to oppose the Congress Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee.
Now possibly pitted against his former Cabinet colleague Pranab Babu, Mr Sangma has at least managed to drum up substantial support and ensure that the battle to the Raisina Hill will not be without a fair fight.