A failed man is being dumped on Raisina Hill! That is how presidential candidate PA Sangma described his rival and former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday while on a visit to Mumbai to mobilise support for his candidature. “Raisina Hill is being used as a dumping ground for a failed finance minister,” he said.
Sangma, who is backed by the BJP, AIADMK, and the Biju Janata Dal, besides a few other parties, expressed confidence that he would win, saying there were no ifs or buts here. “I have never lost an election in my life,” he said. He pointed out that the Trinamool Congress, which is opposed to Mukherjee, was yet to decide who it would back while the Left parties are divided over the CPI(M)’s decision to back Mukherjee.
He also appealed to his former party colleagues in the NCP, of which he was a founding member alongside Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar. He reiterated his appeal for a conscience vote, adding shrewdly, “I am sure my NCP friends have a good conscience,”
The NCP has decided to back Pranab Mukherjee and had expelled Sangma from the party for refusing to toe the party line. “The NCP is an ally of the Congress only at the Centre and in Maharashtra, but sits in the Opposition in most of the North-Eastern states. So, why should our party vote for a Congress candidate when we have been opposing the Congress party in most of the states?” he asked. Terming Sharad Pawar as a shrewd person, he added he had contributed to the party’s growth and the least he could expect was its support in return.
Asked if he would meet leaders of the Shiv Sena, which too was backing Mukherjee though it is an ally of the BJP, he replied, “Not everything in politics happens through meetings.”
Sangma praised the NDA government led by AB Vajpayee (1998-2004), saying no one could deny that it had performed very well. Sangma said he was awaiting the Election Commission’s reply for a probe to his charged that Mukherjee still held two offices of profit – vice-president of the Birbhum Institute of Engineering and Technology and chairman of the Rabindra Bharati Society – that could disqualify Mukherjee. He said if the EC ruled in the former finance minister’s favour, he’d appeal to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s leader of the opposition in the state assembly Eknath Khadse has appealed to the MNS to back Sangma’s candidature.