New Delhi, Jan. 6: Former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma has said Narendra Modi is a prime ministerial candidate, the first BJP ally known across the country to make such a statement.
Sangma, who had left the Congress on Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and parted ways with Sharad Pawar over the last presidential polls, told The Telegraph during an interview yesterday that Modi's position after the Gujarat election victory was the BJP's internal matter.
Sangma then added: "But I do feel that Narendra Modi is a prime ministerial candidate."
If the observation had a neutral ring, a subsequent reply indicated where the leader from Meghalaya stood.
"I don't think he (Modi) is anti-minority, he supported me during the presidential election. I am also from the religious minority," said Sangma, a Catholic Christian from Tura in the northeastern state.
Sangma, whose National People's Party has allied itself with the BJP-led NDA, is not a political heavyweight but his utility as a sounding board is considerable.
He enjoys a national profile because of his walkout from the Congress and he had stood out as the Speaker because of his affable nature ' qualities that Modi may find useful while negotiating the tricky national rapids populated by unforgiving BJP allies such as Nitish Kumar. Even the Shiv Sena has not yet explicitly supported Modi's perceived candidature.
Sangma said something else ' besides supporting more financial autonomy for states ' that should strike a chord with Modi.
"We want the Prime Minister to be elected directly by the people. If it is not feasible for some time, we should move towards that, that Prime Minister should belong to the Lok Sabha and he should be elected," Sangma said, without referring to Manmohan Singh who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha.
Before deciding to join the NDA, Sangma said, he had called on Modi when the Gujarat chief minister visited New Delhi on December 27 to attend the National Development Council meeting.
"I had a meeting with Nitin Gadkari, I had a meeting with Narendra Modi when he came here on the 27th (December) and I also had a final meeting with L.K. Advani," he said.
While supporting FDI, Sangma said he was not really in favour of FDI in multi-brand retail immediately but said since a clause allowed states to decide, he had no problems with the proposal.