Trinamool aims high
PA Sangma said his main aim is to make the Trinamool Congress a national party after the polls.
Ruling out the possibility of his return to Congress as he cannot accept AICC President Sonia Gandhi's leadership, Former Lok Sabha speaker Purno A Sangma today said his main aim is to make the Nationalist Trinamool Congress a national party after the General elections and create an eastern lobby in New Delhi.
"I am confident that after the election NTC will become a national party," Sangma who merged his faction of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress to create NTC, told PTI in an interview here.
He said "to get recognised as a national party, there are two requirements. It must have six per cent votes in at least three states and it should have four MPs.
Expressing confidence that NTC would fulfil the first criteria in at least five states -- West Bengal, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, Sangma said "the party will have to undergo a change.
"It should have a national perspective. After the polls we will bring amendments to the party constitution and formulate plans and programmes for the entire party," Sangma said.
Re-affirming his stand of not accepting Sonia as leader, Sangma dismissed speculations that he was approached by Congress to rejoin it.
"The report is not true. The question of going back to Congress does not arise," said Sangma, who has always been vocal on Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin issue and had ultimately parted ways with Pawar on the same issue.
He, however, said that before the elections he had sent feelers to Congress to change its leader to enable all old Congressmen to re-join the party.
"Before the elections, I had approached the Congress to change the leader and even suggested that if they project former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister, I will have no problem in supporting Congress. Congress officials in their press briefing rejected the appeal. Therefore the question of supporting Congress does not arise any more," he said.
On the recent merger of his party with Mamata Banarjee-led Trinamool Congress, he said despite Sharad Pawar taking away most of the MPs and MLAs the organisation remained with him.
He said though Bengal would remain the focus of the party, "we want to create an eastern lobby in Delhi and for this there has to be close co-operation between eastern and north-eastern states."
He demanded that the entire eastern region should be treated as a special economic zone as the region has been neglected for long.
Praising Mamata Banerjee as an 'undisputed mass leader', Sangma said that after splitting with Sharad Pawar he decided to join hands with the firebrand West Bengal leader considering the interest of the eastern and north-eastern region.
He said he had invited by a number of other parties including BJP, Janata Dal (U) and Janata Party of Subramaiam Swamy after his differences with Pawar.
Sangma said that he had left Congress alongwith Pawar on the leadership issue. He parted ways with Pawar on the same issue of accepting Sonia Gandhi's leadership on which the NCP leader compromised.
Sangma said that there was no chance of a Congress-led government coming to power after the election.
He dismissed the exit poll predictions and expressed confidence that NDA alliance headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would form the next government on the basis of its good governance, stability and as there was no leader for an alternative government in comparison to the 'undisputed' NDA leader (Vajpayee).
"The exit poll predictions will not come true. In my view NDA will return with a majority. In my estimation, it should be 285 to 290 seats for NDA though BJP is claiming it will cross the 300 mark," Sangma said.
Replying to a question, he said NTC was committed to NDA and would continue with it.
On Trinamool manifesto criticising some basic policies of NDA government like disinvestment, Sangma said "disinvestment as a policy has to be accepted, but it has to be very selective and appropriate according to the situation obtaining in a particular state.
"Even Petroleum Minister Ram Naik and Defence Minister George Fernandes have a lot of differences on disinvestment," he said.
Sangma claimed he would win by the highest ever margin this time from the Tura Lok Sabha seat.