Ahead of LS polls, Mahanta asks Sangma to revive NEPF

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Shillong, Sep 25 (UNI) With his return to Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) almost certain, former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today asked former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A Sangma to rejuvenate the North-East People's Forum (NEPF).

Mr Mahanta, who arrived in Meghalaya today, impressed upon Mr Sangma the need of regional parties in the eight Northeastern states, including Sikkim, to fight the upcomming Lok Sabha polls under one political platform.

NEPF, a conglomeration of 17 political parties, including the BJP and breakaway NCP and regional parties from the Northeast, was formed in 2003 to address chronic problems of the region such as insurgency and illegal immigration.

''I have requested Mr Sangma to take the initiative to talk to leaders of the regional parties on the proposal,'' Mr Mahanta told reporters after discussing with the former Lok Sabha Speaker on various issues concerning the region.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, the AGP had rejected the offer made by NEPF convenor and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio due to the Forum's association with the BJP. In Meghalaya too, the United Democratic Party had rejected Mr Sangma's offer.

Mr Sangma, the architect of NEPF, however, this time made it clear that the Forum will not have any pre-poll alliance with the ruling Congress-led UPA or BJP-led NDA.

''The forum has nothing do with political alliances at the Centre, but to fight the upcoming crucial Lok Sabha elections together to oust the Congress,'' the Nationalist Congress Party general secretary said.

Stating that the fortcoming Parliamentary polls were crucial for the country, Mr Sangma said, ''In the last Confidence Motion of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, if five JMM MPs from Jharkhand could turn the tide in favour of the UPA, why not 24 MPs from North- eastern states fight the election under one political platform.'' Meanwhile, non-Congress chief ministers of the Northeastern states, including top regional parties' leaders, are expected to meet at Shillong to revive the NEPF which has been lying low after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

UNI RRK DPM SP HT1515

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