Maharashtrian should be PM, says Pawar; sorry, responds Congress (Lead)

March 13th, 2009 - 8:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai/New Delhi, March 13 (IANS) Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said Friday that it was time a Maharashtrian became the prime minister but added quickly that he was not speaking for himself. A miffed Congress declared that there was “no vacancy” for the country’s top post.
In an extensive interview to NDTV, Pawar said a Maharashtrian needed to get a stab at the prime minister’s chair since nearby states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka had produced prime ministers.

“There is a feeling among the people of this state (Maharashtra) that … Maharashtra should get opportunity as well,” Pawar said.

But Pawar underlined that the leader of a party such as the NCP, which would be contesting in a limited number of seats, could never hope to hold the top post.

“One should not expect to be prime minister when one is contesting limited seats,” he said.

“My party is contesting hardly 30 or 35 seats in (the) entire country. How can anybody expect to take the responsibility to run the affairs of the nation with such a small number?”

But Pawar’s remarks only appeared to increase the unease in the Congress, which has been upset ever since the Shiv Sena said that it would be happy to back the NCP chief for the prime minister’s post.

“There is no vacancy for the post of prime minister,” Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said curtly in New Delhi, replying to a question related to Pawar’s remarks.

Pawar’s NCP is a key member of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). It is in negotiation with the Congress on seat sharing in Maharashtra, which elects 48 members to the Lok Sabha.

In other comments to NDTV, Pawar said he would not be surprised if the April-May election threw up another fractured mandate.

“If both UPA (United Progressive Alliance) and NDA (National Democratic Alliance) don’t get that magic figure (in the Lok Sabha), then probably they have to take support from others, and then you don’t know what will happen (then).”

He reiterated that the NCP wanted an all-India alliance with the Congress, under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“But the Congress has not accepted our suggestion or even (Railway Minister) Lalu Prasad’s suggestion to contest (together).”

Pawar also spelt out that the newly formed Third Front would not be able to provide a viable alternative to the Congress and BJP.

“But a situation might emerge that anybody who wants to form a government will have to take the support and cooperation of Third Front.”

The NCP leader put to rest speculation that his party had a soft corner for the Shiv Sena.

“At this stage we are working with the Congress. We like to work with the Congress. We are trying to resolve some issues that are still pending, and we definitely hope that they will be resolved.

“We will contest the elections together. We will help each other out. The question of helping anyone else does not arise.”

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