M A I N   N E W S

NCP splits
Sangma, Pawar remove each other
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) today split on the issue of aligning with the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha elections with Mr P.A. Sangma “replacing” Mr Sharad Pawar as party president and the latter “expelling” the former from the party.

Shortly after a convention of NCP workers “replaced” Mr Pawar with Mr Sangma as NCP chief, the party’s disciplinary committee expelled Mr Sangma and five others for “anti-party activities.”

However, no action was taken against senior party leader V.C. Shukla, who along with Mr Sangma has decided to align with the NDA. Mr Shukla has decided to float his own outfit, which will be formally launched in Raipur.

Others who were expelled along with Mr Sangma included working committee members Salamtullah, Gurusharan Singh, B.B. Dutta, Bolin Kuli and Ms Veena Nayyar, chief of NCP’s mahila wing.

NCP general secretary Tariq Anwar said the rebels indulged in “gross acts of indiscipline.”

Party spokesman Praful Patel said no action had been taken against Mr Shukla as he had not attended the convention and did not indulge in anti-party activities. He said anyone was free to leave the party on his own.

A resolution adopted at the convention held at Mr Sangma’s residence “elected” him as the party chief in place of Mr Pawar and authorised him to decide the electoral strategy in a manner consistent with the stand he had already taken.

Earlier, Mr Sangma and Mr Shukla met with Mr Pawar for over an hour at the residence of party leader Praful Patel as a last-ditch effort to avoid a split in the NCP. Later, the two leaders held a joint press conference in which they declared their intention to align with the NDA. “There is no question of us aligning with the Congress-led alliance. We found it practical politics to align with the NDA... Both agreed to work together and help each other under the NDA banner while retaining our identities.” Mr Sangma said.

Mr Shukla had met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for about an hour today.

Talking to mediapersons after the convention, Mr Sangma said he would move the Election Commission in the next few days to say that his was the original NCP and to retain the clock symbol.

He made it clear that the issue of Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin would be his party’s main poll plank in the elections.

The resolution passed at the convention, claiming to represent a majority of the rank and file of the NCP from all over the country, said it was apprehensive about any decision that would destroy the credibility of the NCP among the masses.

The resolution said that the convention had taken note of Mr Pawar’s statement that the NCP would align with the Congress and of Mr Sangma that any alliance with the Congress would be fundamentally inconsistent with the very rationale on which the NCP was founded.

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