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The Rediff Special / Syed Firdaus Ashraf
April 15, 2004
The Nationalist Congress Party.
Sharad Pawar, Purno Aitok Sangma and Tariq Anwar.
The party's birth
In May 1999, Pawar, Sangma and Anwar split from the Congress. Reason? They felt no foreign-born person should rule India, thus directly challenging Congress president Sonia Gandhi's leadership. All three of them were dismissed from the Congress. Thus, the NCP was born, on May 12, 1999, the day the Kargil war began.
Aims and objectives
The NCP's primary aim was to see that no person of foreign origin should occupy the prime minister's office. It also stated that the country needed to be united and must maintain its secular and democratic traditions. It also emphasised on federalism.
The 1999 general election
The NCP bagged only seven seats -- six in Maharashtra and one in Tura, Meghalaya, where Sangma won.
The party's base
Maharashtra and Meghalaya
The NCP was wiped out in all local and state elections in Bihar and Gujarat in the last five years.
The NCP split after Sangma and Pawar differed over the issue of supporting Sonia Gandhi in the 2004 general election.
Pawar said the issue of leadership at the Centre should be decided after the election results. Gandhi agreed and both of them formed an alliance and worked out a seat-sharing agreement in Maharashtra.
Sangma said there should be no alliance with the Congress, as the NCP was founded on the principle that no person of foreign origin should rule India.
Pawar argued with Sangma that the NCP and Congress had an alliance government in Maharashtra and there was no harm in tying up for the general election, especially in view of the fact that Gandhi had agreed that the issue of leadership could be decide after the election.
But Sangma stuck to his guns.
The split takes an ugly turn
Both factions fought to retain the party symbol. Eventually, the Election Commission awarded the symbol to Pawar.
The election manifesto
Significantly, the document is silent on the foreign origin issue.
Sharad Pawar. It is only because of him that many Congress workers and leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, Vijaysinh Mohite- Patil, R R Patil and Praful Patel quit the party to join the NCP.
Image: Rahil Shaikh