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NCP for campaign rights

Shillong, June 11: The Meghalaya NCP today said every presidential candidate had the right to campaign for support to make people aware that the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan will not be reduced to a mere “rubber stamp”.

The statement referred to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s recent diatribe against former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma who is campaigning for a candidature in the race to Raisina Hill.

Gogoi had said it was for the first time that a presidential candidate is “campaigning for himself”.

“It is sad that Gogoi does not take pride in the fact that a person from the Northeast is making his bid for the post of President. In future, people will remember Gogoi as someone who had opposed Sangma for the post,” NCP legislator and Opposition leader Conrad K. Sangma told reporters here this evening.

Conrad, son of P.A. Sangma, said the Assam chief minister had acted according to his party line to keep the Centre and Congress president Sonia Gandhi “happy”.

“It is fair enough. But at the same time, every presidential candidate should campaign to make the public aware that the occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan will not become a mere rubber stamp,” said the Opposition leader.

Moreover, Conrad said as the Congress had nothing to uphold against Sangma, it was raising such “ridiculous points”.

He also said although the NCP leadership had asserted that the party would vote for a candidate chosen by the UPA coalition, several legislators and parliamentarians would be supporting Sangma.

“The NCP has a total of 24,000 points in the presidential elections. Of this, around 2,500 to 2,800 points will go to Sangma,” Conrad claimed.

“Who said no one from the NCP is supporting him? I am also from the NCP, and I am supporting Sangma,” the Selsella legislator declared.

Further, he said Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa had chosen Sangma’s name from a list of around five other indigenous candidates, including the former Maharashtra governor S.C. Jamir.

“Since his name has been proposed by the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Odisha, I think it would be wrong for him (Sangma) to simply say I cannot contest the presidential polls,” Conrad said.

In 1992, Meghalaya MP G.G. Swell was a presidential candidate but had lost to Shankar Dayal Sharma. Sangma, who was a Congress stalwart, had then opposed Swell, a prominent Khasi leader. Sangma belongs to the Garo tribe.

“I was not in the political scene then so I cannot say much on it (about Sangma not supporting Swell). But as his son, I know that he was a disciplined party man, and his opposing Swell’s candidature could have been because of party compulsions,” Conrad said.

The Opposition leader also said the indigenous issue for the upcoming presidential polls should not be seen in isolation.

“The indigenous issue is just one part of it. We should also look at Sangma’s contribution and his clean image. He had made a lot of contributions during his tenure as the Union minister for coal and information and broadcasting. Now, it is a good chance of bringing a breath of fresh air in the country through Sangma as he had always maintained a clean track record in his 35 years of public life,” Conrad said.