For Sharad Pawar, PM’s post so near yet so far (Profile)

May 15th, 2009 - 5:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Mumbai, May 15 (IANS) Public denials notwithstanding, Maharashtra strongman and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar may be nurturing the ambition to become prime minister.
The stakes are high for the 69-year-old veteran politician.

In 1991, Pawar’s name was discussed as a contender for the top post after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. But the Congress preferred to back P.V. Narasimha Rao, who made Pawar the defence minister.

Pawar continued hobnobbing with national and state politics at various occasions, going back to Maharashtra as chief minister in 1993, and unsuccessfully contesting for the Congress president’s post against the late Sitaram Kesri in 1997.

A couple of years later, in 1999, when Maharashtra was on the verge of ending the saffron rule of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (SS-BJP), Pawar suddenly parted ways with the Congress.

Taking the oft-repeated line of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, he and others formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The NCP aligned with the Congress later and trounced the SS-BJP in the 2004 assembly elections, while the NCP also made its presence felt at the national level.

After building the party into a formidable force in Maharashtra, moving shoulder-to-shoulder with the Congress, Pawar may be feeling sure-footed enough to dabble in the possibility of being prime minister.

While political circles rule out the possibility solely on the strength of the NCP, a lot would depend on post-result permutations and combinations.

NCP leader and union minister Praful Patel Friday said that the Congress was the largest grouping within the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and “the prime minister would be theirs”.

But so far, Pawar has managed to keep everybody guessing over his next move, his next purported ally or probable foe, his suspected ’secret’ deals with other parties even at the cost of the Congress or other UPA constituents.

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