The Congress has weakened and the opposition should come together and take strong decisions on a new leadership, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said today amid speculation that NCP chief Sharad Pawar could replace Sonia Gandhi as chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
“We will be happy if Sharad Pawar sir becomes the UPA chairman. But I have heard that he refused it. He is a big leader. We will support him if such a proposal comes to the fore officially,” said Mr Raut, whose party was earlier part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but is now ruling Maharashtra in partnership with the ideologically opposite NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) and Congress.
He added the Congress was a “big party” and that these are big things to decide.
“UPA should be made stronger. Congress is a big party, I admit, but it could not get the role of leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. We have to strengthen the UPA. The way the MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi of the Sena, NCP and Congress) in Maharashtra was formed, will there be such a formation in the country? And if yes, who will lead it? All these are big topics… Slowly we can solve them,” Mr Raut said.
Mr Pawar, who turns 80 tomorrow, has not responded to these reports. But his NCP put out a clarification and said such talk was being floated as a diversion from the massive farmer protests near Delhi.
“The Nationalist Congress Party would like to clarify that there is no discussion within UPA partners regarding any such proposal,” NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said.
“The reports appearing in the media seems to be have planted by vested interests to divert the attention from the ongoing farmers’ agitation,” he added.
Reports suggest Sonia Gandhi, 74, who was forced to take over as interim Congress president after her son Rahul Gandhi quit last year over the party’s abysmal performance in the national election, is inclined to give up the coalition leadership.
The Shiv Sena said anything can happen in politics and Mr Pawar was capable of a bigger national role.
“Politics is unpredictable. You never know what will happen next. Pawar has vast experience, knowledge of the issues before the country and knows the pulse of the people,” Mr Raut had said on Thursday, before the NCP put out a clarification.