NCP to fight for about 100 seats in MP

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Bhopal, June 27 (UNI) Union Civil Aviation Minister and Nationalist Congress Party's Madhya Pradesh in-charge Praful Patel today said that his party would contest 80 to 100 seats in the state's assembly polls if the party contested on its own.

Addressing reporters here, Mr Patel said, ''the decision of either joining hands with secular-minded parties or going it alone will be taken by next month.'' Being a ''secular'' party, the NCP was always advocating that secular parties should come under one umbrella instead of fighting separately to defeat communal forces. ''If the secular parties work together it will be beneficial for the country,'' he remarked.

''Though our party is small it is capable of contesting the hustings alone. We are not helpless and the NCP represents 14 states,'' the Minister said while reiterating his party's stand of a common platform comprising secular-minded parties.

On the impasse over the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement, Mr Patel -- who was here to attend the party's working committee meeting, said that he believed that the problem would be resolved through discussion. ''The nuclear deal is necessary for the country's long-term benefit,'' he opined.

Brushing aside the likelihood of an early general election, Mr Patel said that the deal deadlock with the Left parties would be ended soon and the Lok Sabha poll would be held as per schedule.

About galloping inflation and spiralling prices of essential commodities, the NCP leader said that the global scenario was responsible for the unprecedented situation.

''Price hike does not depend on a single issue, there are several factors including domestic and international for issues such as inflation and price hike,'' he said.

Mr Patel claimed that despite the adverse situation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was doing well and the condition of farmers had improved.

To a question of his party's support stance in case the Congress chooses United Progressive Alliance Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi as the next prime ministerial candidate, Mr Patel pointed out that she had already refused to accept the post in the past.

When asked whether the NCP would prefer to see Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister, Mr Patel was diplomatic and said, ''the people of the country are the best judge and they will decide it.'' UNI BDG AC 1607

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