Presidential polls: Sangma plays `Obama card`

Sangma pinned his hopes on big number of `hidden votes` and equated himself to the `black man` Barack Obama making it to the White House.

New Delhi: Former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma, who is considered an underdog in the Presidential race, on Saturday pinned his hopes on `big number of hidden votes` and equated himself to the `black man` Barack Obama making it to the White House.

"We have (the case of) Barack Obama...Nobody thought a black man would ever occupy White House. If a black man can become the President of America, why can`t an Adivasi become the President of India," the NCP leader, whose party has refused to back him for the Presidential race, said.

Interacting with the members of the Indian Women`s Press Corp (IWPC) Sangma said he "hopes" that a consensus would evolve on his candidature as "neither UPA nor NDA has numbers ... Besides there are a big number of hidden votes...You never know."

"Nobody sees who will vote for whom. It is a secret ballot. How can it be a question of who one would vote," the NCP general secretary promptly replied when asked whether his daughter Agatha Sangma, would vote for him.

He said his daughter, who is a minister in the UPA government, had started campaign for a tribal candidate for the Presidentship but stopped it as soon as he entered the fray with the support of two tall leaders -- Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Orissa -- Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik.

"My daughter is part of UPA, I am not. When I went to Chennai, PA Sangma was not a candidate...That time we were campaigning for a tribal candidate. She stopped the moment Jayalalithaa and Patnaik announced support to me....She will go by what UPA decides," 64-year-old Sangma, a tribal and a legislator from Meghalaya said.
He reiterated that he had sought appointments with political leaders including Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to press for a tribal candidate for the post of the President.
Asked how he expected to get Congress support when he had opposed Sonia becoming the Prime Minister on the issue of her foreign origin, Sangma said his opposition was not personal.

"I opposed her purely on the question of principle ...Nothing to do with any individual. About principle, Prime Minister of India or President of India has to be an Indian citizen and I stand by that till today, till tomorrow, till day after also," said the former Congress leader.

Sangma had revolted on the issue of Sonia`s foreign origin in 1999 and left Congress to join hands with Sharad Pawar to form the Nationalist Congress Party.

He said Sonia had an opportunity to become the Prime Minister but she opted out and the "matter was over and the chapter is closed."

As far as the question of winning without support of Congress is concerned, he said, "I have support of many individual candidates. Remember Presidential election is conducted through secret ballot...So number on paper will not work...It is the actual voting on the designated day."

He said he has met a host of political leaders, including Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Prakash Karat, Nitish Kumar, D Raja and Mulayam Singh for support.

BJP and the Left would take a decision on support to any candidate soon, Sangma said.

When pointed out that his own NCP has already rebuffed him by refusing to support him, he said, "We (NCP) are not partners of UPA everywhere. It is only in Delhi."

"...We have two categories of NCP. It is an ally and coalition partner of Congress in New Delhi...In Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Kerala, Congress is in government whereas NCP is in opposition," he said.

Not finding anything wrong in Pawar announcing support for UPA candidate, Sangma said the NCP chief`s "stand is correct from his point of view. He is part of UPA, I am not. I am an NCP MLA from Meghalaya."

He underlined the fact that his daughter was part of UPA not he.

When asked what prompted him to jump into the Presidential fray, Sangma said, "I had never intended to contest the elections, I had never propagated for it. It just happened."

Claiming candidature of a tribal for the top post could help solve major problems like insurgency, he said, "If a tribal sits in the chair, many problems of India, whether it is Maoism, Naxalism or insurgency in the North East will end. I am sure that tribal President will be in a much better position to soften the stance of these groups and perhaps may lead to some sort of solution."

"I feel tribal President can reach out to all these elements," he said adding that in his earlier capacity he had held talks with insurgents including NSCN of Nagaland and ULFA and amicable solutions were arrived.

About his comments that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is overqualified for the President`s job, Sangma said, "I had spoken the truth...Pranab Babu is very formidable candidate. He is excellent in facts and figures...Extremely good in administration. But he is not very comfortable with elections."

He said he follows an advice given by Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to him in 1974 that "you will succeed in politics if you don`t run after post or chair. Do your work and chair and post will run after you."

"That is how I contested nine times for Lok Saba and twice for Assembly...I tell my children that your father who has been MP for 30 years was a school dropout," he added.

When told that a group of Congress MPs, led by Ajit Jogi, are advocating for a tribal candidate, he said, "I am very happy that Congress is showing interest in welfare of tribals...But the person heading it is accused of getting certificate of a tribal by himself when he was Collector and the matter is still subjudice."

On UPA government`s three years` performance, he quipped, "Today Mamata Bannerjee is on the streets of Kolkata demonstrating against UPA..What else can be said."


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