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No Sonia, no Priyanka: Sharad Pawar
November 20, 2003 15:04 IST
Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar has ruled out supporting Sonia Gandhi as prime minister after the next general election even if it was the only way to keep out a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Priyanka Gandhi too was also not acceptable as "she is not a member of Parliament. She has not proved her mettle."
During an interview to Karan Thapar on BBC World's Hardtalk India programme, Pawar was asked if he would support a government led by Sonia Gandhi if that seemed like the best way of keeping the BJP out in the event of the next elections throwing up a hung Lok Sabha.
"Difficult. We will not accept. The Congress has to change its leader," Pawar answered. "My suggestion is that the Congress should elect any other person to lead."
Pawar also revealed that Gandhi had not consulted him, the then leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, or his counterpart in the Rajya Sabha before staking claim to form the government when the Vajpayee government fell in April 1999.
Initially, he did try to form an alternative government. Sonia Gandhi was the party president but not a member of either House.
When the BJP government fell, Pawar tried to secure support from Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Samajwadi Janata Party chief Chandrashekhar for the Congress, not though for Gandhi.
He was seriously thinking of supplanting Gandhi and becoming prime minister since he was leader of the opposition. He pointed out that Gandhi had 'continuous stressed' that she is not a candidate for prime minister.
However, without discussing with him or the then leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Gandhi met the President and staked claim to form the government.
The NCP president, who parted ways with the Congress on the issue of Sonia's foreign origin, however, said that he has no problem with the Nehru-Gandhi family and recalled that he had worked in the party when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were prime ministers.
He also has got a 'very good relationship with many Congressmen. I cannot disclose their names because that will seal their fate'.His disagreement with the Congress was not restricted to the leadership issue but extended to economic policies too. He dismissed suggestions that he got a Cabinet status under the National Democratic Alliance government as vice-chairman of the Crisis Management Committee because of his closeness to the BJP.