Thirteen NCP legislators follow Sangma to join NPP

Shillong, Aug 25 : Thirteen legislators of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday joined PA Sangma in the National People's Party (NPP) in Manipur. The NPP is a 23-year-old state party in Manipur and has book as its symbol. The legislators also include Sangma's two sons, Conrad (leader of the Opposition in Meghalaya assembly) and James.

However, Sangma's daughter and Union minister of state for rural development Agatha Sangma and the only Rajya Sabha member from Meghalaya, Thomas Sangma, will continue with the NCP for the time being.

Sangma, who was earlier a founding-member of the NCP, left the party prior to the presidential election last month in which he contested against Pranab Mukherjee but lost. The veteran leader, who was in the Congress in the past and also became the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, said he did not want to set up a new party at this moment for the Meghalaya assembly election is just a few months away.

"We do not have time for registering a new party's name and symbol and hence decided to join our like-minded friends in the NPP," Sangma said.

The former NCP leader is also set to become the president of the 'tribal-centric' NPP and the party is set to get a national outlook for its headquarters were to be shifted from Imphal to New Delhi. Sangma said gradually they would bring NCP members from the entire north-eastern region as well as Gujarat into the NPP.

When criticised about his frequent change of parties, Sangma said he did that owing to his strong principles and not for bigger posts.

Sangma, who claimed he was once the most powerful man in the Congress, was expelled from the party with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar in 1999 for opposing Sonia Gandhi as a prime ministerial candidate because of her foreign origin. The trio formed the NCP but merged the Meghalaya NCP with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) in 2006 following differences with others. He returned to the Pawar-led NCP soon after. This year, Sangma again had a tussle with the NCP leadership over the presidential election.

The party, which is an ally of the Congress in the UPA, did not approve of Sangma's aspirations to become the president by contesting UPA's own candidate but Sangma was desperate to go ahead with his plan. He claimed to have carrying aspirations for the millions of tribals. Sangma quit the party and contested the polls with the support of the BJP and few other parties.

Sangma said he would now try for the welfare of the tribal population, which he felt was deprived of socio-political advancement. He said the NPP would try to give them their dues. According to Sangma, the decision to join the NPP was a tough but bold decision. He said there was no legal problem for two-third of the NCP legislators merged with the NPP.

Conrad Sangma, the opposition leader said all the 13 NCP MLAs met speaker Charles Pyngrope and officially handed over the letter of the legislators joining the NPP. Manipur unit president of the NPP, V Hangkhalian said Sangma's arrival would boost the party, which had won no seats in the 2012 Manipur assembly election.