Prez polls could be as significant as 1969: Sangma

Bhubaneswar: Enthused by backing from 18 political parties, opposition Presidential Candidate PA Sangma on Sunday hoped to draw support from some more parties and said the July 19 polls could be as significant as the one held in 1969 when V V Giri defeated the Congress candidate.

"Eighteen political parties have given commitment to support me. Some parties are likely to announce their decision in a day or two while others may not announce at all. We hope they will vote for us," Sangma said addressing MPs and MLAs of the ruling BJD here. Stating that the Tribal Forum of India had on May 8 appealed to political parties to consider candidature of a tribal for President`s post, the former Lok Sabha Speaker said BJD supremo and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was the first to respond and announce his name on May 17.

"A few hours later echo of the voice from Bhubaneswar was heard in Chennai as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa also extended support. It was followed by backing from so many parties including BJP," he said. Describing the ensuing presidential elections as `special`, the former Lok Sabha Speaker said it has generated similar interest among common people as seen in the polls held in 1969 when V V Giri had contested against the official Congress candidate Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and won.

In the past, people never used to know about elections for the post of President and for the first time it was highlighted in 1969, he said. adding after so many years the presidential poll has generated interest among common people. "The kind of involvement common people are showing in the process this time is unbelievable," Sangma said recalling how Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi told him that the polls had gone beyond MPs and MLAs and attracted common people.

Stating that Odisha has created history by propping a "poor tribal" like him on behalf of 100 million tribals of the country for the post of President, Sangma said it was an honour to the tribals. "I am your candidate .. candidate of BJD," he said, adding for tribals "once a friend always a friend. Once an enemy, always an enemy … and I am your friend."

Recalling that the legendary Biju Patnaik had once been projected as Prime Ministerial candidate, Sangma said he met the late leader after becoming an MP in 1977 when Patnaik became union Steel Minister. Stating that he had very close personal rapport with Biju Patnaik, the presidential aspirant said the legendary leader was very fond of young MPs and politicians.

It was on the initiative of Biju Patnaik that Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) was formed for the benefit of Odisha, Sangma said, adding when he was Union Minister of Coal in 1991, Biju Patnaik had made a suggestion for creation of a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd (CIL) in Odisha. Maintaining that he had similar close ties with Naveen Patnaik, Sangma said, "I admire Naveenji for his courage. He is highly courageous."