Sangma hopes support from some Cong men

Bhubaneswar: Claiming that his prospect in the July 19 presidential election is "very good," PA Sangma today said he was optimistic of a repeat of 1969 when V V Giri had defeated the official candidate of Congress.

"Since there is no restriction, whip or any written direction in this election, I am hopeful of getting support of many MLAs and MPs. Therefore, my prospect in the elections is very good," Sangma told reporters after meeting MLAs and MPs of the ruling BJD and opposition BJP. The former Lok Sabha speaker claimed 18 political parties were already backing his candidature and said he was expecting support from some Congressmen too.

"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. On whether he expects support of Congress MPs and MLAs, he said, "Naturally, I hope so."

"What you see is only black and white. Things are different because there can be no restriction on voters. This election is above party line. I am hopeful that MLAs and MPs will vote for me according to their conscience and not on the party line," he said explaining how he hoped to win despite having support of only 38 per cent in the electoral college.

On Trinamool Congress, Sangma said, "Mamata Banerjee had already said her party would participate in the elections. She will make known whom to support in two to three days. I am hopeful of getting her party`s support." Asked to elaborate on his calculation of a repeat of the 1969 presidential polls, Sangma said that the Election Commission of India had already issued a circular saying that anybody who puts restrictions, whip or written order to voters can be prosecuted under section 171 of the IPC.

This election is witnessing a different political formation where Congress-Communists, Mulayam-Mayawati, BJD-BJP are voting for one candidate. While JD(U) and Shiv Sena have disassociated from NDA in this poll, TMC had also expressed its reservation over the UPA`s candidate, he pointed out. He said the Tribal Forum of India had on May 8 appealed to political parties to consider candidature of a tribal for the President`s post. BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik was the first to respond to that appeal and announce his name on May 17.

"A few hours later echo of the voice from Bhubaneswar was heard in Chennai as AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa also extended support. It was followed by backing from so many parties including BJP," Sangma said. "The kind of involvement common people are showing this time is unbelievable," Sangma said recalling how Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi told him that the polls had gone beyond MPs and MPAs and attracted common people.

Pointing out 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.

It was at the initiative of Biju Patnaik that Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd was formed for the benefit of Odisha, Sangma said, adding when he was Union Minister of Coal in 1991, Patnaik had made a suggestion for creation of a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd in Odisha. On Naveen Patnaik, Sangma said, "I admire Naveenji for his courage. He is highly courageous."