The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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NCP alliance under scanner

New Delhi, Sept. 3: The anti-Sonia Gandhi axis began taking shape today with Nationalist Congress Party leader P.A. Sangma welcoming Jayalithaa’s opposition to the Congress president becoming Prime Minister and a jittery Congress going into a huddle wondering if it should review the party’s ties with the NCP in Maharashtra and Meghalaya where they are sharing power.

A section of the Congress wants the leadership to snap ties with the NCP, but doves caution restraint. According to moderates, there is no cause to “overreact” on the NCP’s tirade against the Congress chief. “The NCP was created on this plank. It is for them to decide if they wish to end their alliance with the Congress,” said a Congress functionary.

Sangma was unfazed over the fate of the coalitions. Asked if the NCP would pull out of Congress governments, Sangma said: “We are in power with the Congress in two states out of certain compulsions. When an alternative emerges, certainly (we will pull out) as we have no intention to go on with the Congress permanently.”

Senior party leaders overseeing organisation affairs in Maharashtra avoided a direct reply on the fate of the Vilasrao Deshmukh government. They claimed that the Congress chief was “indifferent” towards remarks made by Jayalalithaa and Sangma. Party sources said Sonia spoke to Congress general secretary Oscar Fernandes leaving a decision on party general secretaries to respond.

Some Sonia loyalists, however, said it was time to take a “hard look” at the party’s ties with the NCP. “It is not fair that they (the NCP) keep having fruits of office while continuing to belittle our leader. It should not be tolerated,” said a Congress MP from Maharashtra.

“We should twist arm. In any case, the Democratic Front government headed by Vilasrao Deshmukh in Mumbai is not serving much purpose,” said a source.

Sangma today held a press conference asking the Congress to replace Sonia to pave the way for secular parties to come together. The NCP leader who had bluntly asked Sonia not to aspire for prime ministership three years ago in a packed Congress Working Committee meeting, today launched a fresh attack on her. “The BJP-led NDA government is continuing because there is no alternative....If the Congress changes its leader, secular parties could come together.”

Sangma congratulated Jayalalithaa for her remarks against Sonia. The former Lok Sabha Speaker wrote a letter to the Tamil Nadu chief minister that the initiative taken by her would set in motion social and political forces that would once and for all prevent the prospects of the country’s governance falling into the hands of persons of “foreign origin, rootless feudal coteries and vestiges of imperialism”.

Sangma defined a person of “foreign origin” as someone not born on Indian soil or to Indian parents. He said another alternative was the ADMK chief’s suggestion that all non-Congress and non-BJP parties come together to work out an alternative to the BJP-led NDA in the country.

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