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The Rediff Interview/P A Sangma

January 21, 2004

The atmosphere at Nagaland House in New Delhi is electric. The North East People's Forum meeting has Purno Agitok Sangma, the dissenting Nationalist Congress Party leader, as its star attraction. Reporters thronged the venue to speak to Sangma, among them Chief Correspondent Tara Shankar Sahay.

Isn't it ironic that the two architects of the NCP -- you and Mr Sharad Pawar, who broke away from the Congress five years ago in May 1999 to chalk out an independent destiny -- are parting ways now?

Politics is a great teacher. Every entrant in the political field must know that the path he chooses need not necessarily turn out to be the road on which he envisaged his political destiny. There are sharp turns and hairpin bends. But as far as I am concerned, I have tried to live up to the principles on which the NCP was formed.

And that is?

You know, the foreigner issue, that persons of foreign origin cannot aspire to hold top political posts in the country. India is a nation of one billion-plus people and it is more than capable of providing leadership.

And you feel you have been betrayed?

When we formed the NCP I believed we had done the right thing. I still believe I have done the right thing. I cannot help it if others think otherwise at this juncture. The raison d'etre of the formation of the NCP is being whittled down and that is not acceptable to me.

To what do you attribute Mr Pawar's political moves?

Political compulsions, I guess.

But isn't it the same with you?


So the party is over between you and Mr Pawar?

On January 24 I am having a meeting with him along with (senior NCP member) Vidya Charan Shukla. It will be our last bout of consultations.

Will there be fireworks since you mention it could be your last meeting with Mr Pawar?

Hold your horses. Why don't you wait and watch?

Why do you insist on putting an emphasis on the word 'last'?

Because things have to be decided -- either this way or that way.

The North East People's Forum is a conglomerate of 17 parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party, NCP and the Janata Dal (United). It is joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance as a partner, so do you still insist you will fight the general election as an NCP member on the party's symbol?

Yes. I think the matter (of Sangma and Pawar being in diametrically opposite political camps) will be sorted out. Wait for some time.

Do you have the consent of the other constituents, especially the northeastern parties in the NEPF, to be a part of the NDA?

Of course! The NEPF chairman (Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio) has very clearly clarified it while addressing the media. Besides, I have the full and unqualified support of the people of my region.

Is the Asom Gana Parishad with you on the question of joining the NDA?

I had consultations with AGP leaders Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Brindaban Goswami. I have requested them once again to join the NEPF. They told me their annual general conference will be held at Tezpur on January 28, 29 and 30 where a new (party) president will be elected. Only after the election of the new AGP president will they take a final decision.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

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