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"NCP keeping its options open" (Interview with Purno Agitok Sangma)

"NCP keeping its options open" (Interview with Purno Agitok Sangma)

Publication: The Hindu
Date: April 23, 2009
URL: http://www.hindu.com/2009/04/23/stories/2009042350171400.htm

I want to stop people from Bangladesh entering the northeast through north Bengal

The former Lok Sabha Speaker and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) general secretary, Purno Agitok Sangma, is now trying to consolidate a vote bloc from the Northeast and north Bengal to influence New Delhi's policy towards the region. The veteran politician, who had a long stint in national politics before returning to Meghalaya in 2008, says that the Third Front is emerging stronger and stronger. The NCP, he says, has an open mind on post poll tie-ups. At the same time, he rules out his party having a truck with the BJP in this interview with Sushanta Talukdar.

Q.: Do you foresee a possibility of the Congress heading the next government?
A.: I don't think so. I think the Third Front is emerging stronger and stronger everyday. The problem with the Congress is they have never been able to cultivate a coalition culture. Even within the coalition, they behave as if it is single party Congress rule.

Q.: What will be the NCP's role post-election?
A.: The NCP has an open mind. The NCP does not have an alliance with the Congress at the national level. The alliance is limited to only two States - Maharashtra and Goa. We have the option to go wherever we want.

Q.: Is the NCP open to a tie-up with the BJP?
A.: No. There is no question of the NCP going with the BJP. That is the stand of the party. What I foresee is that in the post-election scenario is competition between the UPA and the NDA for aligning with the Third Front.

Q.: What will be your role vis-À-vis the Northeast?
A.: When the country is heading towards uncertainty, everybody wants to bargain for more. That is precisely my aim too. After trying to unite the non-Congress and non-BJP parties of the Northeast, I am focussing on north Bengal. I am trying to make the Northeast and north Bengal emerge as a strong bargaining force. Out of 27 seats (24 in the Northeast and three in north Bengal) in our zone, we hope to get 12-15 MPs minus the AGP and the BJP. And it will be a solid bloc.

Q.: What will be the role of this bloc of MPs?
A.: Their role will be to extract the maximum for the development of the Northeast and to take advantage of the 'look East' policy of Centre. The situation in the Northeast is ripe for take off. After the opening of the international border, we have free access to neighbouring countries including China. This is what is important for us.

Our planning process has to change. Earlier our planning was only up to Siliguri. Now the Siliguri corridor has become less important for us. But it remains important as a check point to infiltration.

I want to stop people from Bangladesh entering the northeast through north Bengal. That is why I am supporting the creation of three new States - Gorkhaland, Kamtapur and Bodoland.

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