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PAWAR SPEAKS: 170 seats enough for Cong to form next govt

Last updated on: January 31, 2013 21:38 IST

PAWAR SPEAKS: 170 seats enough for Cong to form next govt

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Sheela Bhatt

Nationalist Congress chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday set the bar too low for the next Lok Sabha election saying that, "the party that will get 170/180 seats will form the next government."

He also completely underplayed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's possible role in national politics saying when he moves in country he gets the idea that 'there is no alternative' emerging against the Congress-led United Progressive Allliance coalition.

He added that, "There is a possibility that the Congress might reach that (170/180) number!"

On Modi, he said, "The media gives him disproportionate coverage. He is not an issue at the national level. The Congress lost due to its own weaknesses in Gujarat."

In fact, the aging lion of Maharashtra politics tried to emphasis that, "From my party's side I can say that we will be happy to continue with the Congress." 

At same time, Pawar downplayed the emergence of Rahul Gandhi as Congress vice-president. When asked if he welcomes his becoming vice-president, Pawar retorted, "How am I concerned?"

When asked if Rahul's new status will be good for the Congress party, he said, "It is the Congress party's internal decision. But if the Congress gets strengthened then it will help the UPA. I can't comment more because I don't know the person (Rahul). I don't know his capacity. I don't know the responses of the masses to him." 

He was quite blunt when asked repeatedly about Modi. On Modi's projection as a prime ministerial candidate, Pawar said, "He can project himself. Nothing wrong in it as every politician desires to be PM. But, ultimately, acceptability, numbers all these are necessary.

If, any candidate is declared as PM's candidate by any party and is supported by allies then the picture will be clearer. The other side will also try to consolidate and find an alternative. The alternative will be such that it will fulfill the minus side of the opposite candidate."

In fact, Pawar seems to be of the view that the situation is fluid as far as the issue of prime ministerial candidate is concerned. Interestingly, he reminded journalists that Congress president Sonia Gandhi has not yet given her verdict on the issue.

In fact, to the surprise of many, Pawar mentioned that possibility of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being repeated as the "situation is fluid."    

When asked, specifically, about "the Congress's number two" becoming prime ministerial candidate, Pawar said, "It will depend on the number one. She has not said so yet. It could be anyone, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh... or anyone. It's up to the number one to decide."

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Image: Nationalist Congress chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar


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'Praful CAN take over from me'

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When asked, repeatedly, will it be a Rahul versus Modi match, he said, "You see, I don't think that India has come to that decision, yet...that so and so will be the candidate for PM's post. The situation is fluid. Someone who will be accepted by everybody is yet to come in!"  

When asked if the NCP will be able to work with Rahul if he becomes PM, Pawar quickly said, "We are with the Congress party and not with an individual!"

Talking about succession, he said, "I am not going to contest the next (general) election. Naye logo ko lena achcha hoga. I will continue as a head of the party. I want to be away from my parliamentary party. This is my desire. I don't know what will happen. My successor will be decided by my party. (When someone mentioned Praful Patel's name) Yeah, Praful can take over. (on prodding) I am saying Praful CAN take over from me."

Indirectly, Pawar supported fellow Maharashtrian Nitin Gadkari, former Bharatiya Janata Party president, saying that under his leadership Vidarbha region had come under the BJP's influence.

Pawar, who has thorough knowledge about issues related to food security, softened his stand over it.

He said, "The parliamentary standing committee has given the report. It hasn't come to us yet. We will have to see it. If a sizable section of the weaker classes are getting cheap foodgrains then it is a good thing. We produce so much. Last year we produced 259 million tonnes of grains, this year we will cross 250 million tonnes. Next year, if the monsoon is good we will establish a new record. Our granaries are full. Instead of wasting it why not feed our own people and solve the problem of food security?"

He added, "From that angle I think this action will create a happy situation in the country. I don't see it from a political angle. If it's achieved I will be happy that we have succeeded in solving the problem of hunger. My reservation was about the percentage of subsidies that we should bear."

He reiterated support to Telangana movement and even said that his party will not come in way of separate Vidarbha movement if any comes up. He was quite frank in airing his views on cash-transfer scheme saying that he is not much hopeful about it.

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Image: Pawar with Minister for Heavy Industry Praful Patel


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'We would like to continue with the Congress'

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Nationalist Congress chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar spoke to journalists in New Delhi on his future plans and what could happen in the next general elections. Sheela Bhatt listens in.

On his retirement

I am not going to contest the next (general) election. Naye logo ko lena achcha hoga. I will continue as a head of the party. I want to be away from my parliamentary party. This is my desire. I don't know what will happen. My successor will be decided by my party. (When someone mentioned Praful Patel's name) Yeah, Praful can take over. (on prodding) I am saying Praful CAN take over from me. 

Will there a United Progressive Alliance-3 in 2014?

That is the thinking going on.

As NCP chief would you like to continue with UPA-3?

The NCP and the Congress are working together. We would like to continue.

The Congress has said in Jaipur that pre-poll alliances should be at the minimum. Do you think it is going to be reflected (in Maharashtra)?

I don't think so, in Maharashtra at least. We have been working since the last 10 years. I don't think there will be any problem. From Jaipur, I haven't got any indication like this.

The National Democratic Alliance and the UPA are not improving right now. In that case, what will happen in 2014?

The party that gets 170/180 seats will form the next government. There is a possibility that the Congress might reach that number!

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Image: Congress president Sonia Gandhi


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'Jagan Reddy is an important force'

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Can the UPA recover the losses of the last one year?

I don't know. But, what I see from ground level.... (pauses) I don't see any alternative (to the UPA)! Anybody who has ruled for more than ten years there will be some anti-incumbency. Some problems are there. But the UPA will be able to manage.

Do you think the general election will happen this year?

I don't think so.

In the coming election how do you see trends amongst urban voters?

What you are seeing in New Delhi is not the picture throughout India.

There were some agitations in Delhi. My observation, in the last many years, is that the mood in Delhi and country's mood can be different.  

The NCP was formed on issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin. Now in 2014 if Rahul Gandhi becomes prime minister will the NCP go back to the Congress fold?

The rank and file doesn't think of merging. They want to retain their independent identity. They want to maintain good relations with the Congress. The mood of the party is to remain independent so that we can take decisions our way. The decision-making should be in our hand.

Do you think Jagan Reddy's faction will adopt the NCP formula? Do you think Jagan's YSR Congress may have an alliance with the Congress?

I don't know his equations with the Congress but Jagan Reddy is an important force that one has to accept in Andhra Pradesh.

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Image: YSR Congress chief Jagannohan Reddy
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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'I don't see impact of Telangana on Vidharbha'

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On the Telangana issue

We are supporting the formation of a separate Telangana state. Our party passed the resolution some six-seven years back.

We want the Telangana issue to be taken up early. I conveyed it to the prime minister, even today. I think the UPA allies will meet and discuss. I don't know when the meeting will be called. I can't say about a time limit.

Generally, the Congress party leadership is in favour of Telangana. Now, it's question of timing over which they are thinking and taking time. I think a decision on Telangana will be helpful to us. Hyderabad is a part of Telangana so it will remain with it.

Telangana's impact on the Vidarbha movement

I don't see any impact of creation of Telangana on (the issue of a separate) Vidarbha state. If the people (of Vidarbha) want it, we will not come in the way!

On the possibility of a Third Front

I don't think there is any possibility of a Third Front. I don't see that type of situation coming up. From my party's side I can say that we will be happy to continue with the Congress.

On Narendra Modi

The media gives him disproportionate coverage. He is not an issue at the national level. The Congress lost due to its own weaknesses in Gujarat.

On the young faces in the NCP

The party will decide about the future leadership. Supriya Sule is only interested in the Lok Sabha and Ajit Pawar is interested, essentially, in state politics.

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Image: Telangana protestors clash with police during a rally in Hyderabad
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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'Our granaries are full'

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On the food security bill

The parliamentary standing committee has given the report. It hasn't come to us yet. We will have to see it. If a sizable section of the weaker classes are getting cheap foodgrains then it is a good thing.

We produce so much. Last year we produced 259 million tonnes of grains, this year we will cross 250 million tonnes. Next year, if the monsoon is good we will establish a new record. Our granaries are full. Instead of wasting it why not feed our own people and solve the problem of food security?

From that angle I think this action will create a happy situation in the country. I don't see it from a political angle. If it's achieved I will be happy that we have succeeded in solving the problem of hunger. My reservation was about the percentage of subsidies that we should bear.

On issue of scarcity of labour in the agriculture sector

Yesterday, I have conducted the meeting to discuss the issue of mechanisation in farming. We want to give thrust to mechanisation to increase production.

On the UPA's cash transfer scheme

On the UPA's cash transfer scheme in country as big as India we will have to tread carefully. I am not very confident that this will be successful. If it succeeds, I will be happy.

On the Maharashtra government's indecisive governance

(Smiles) We are quite helpful. The government is taking decisions.

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Photographs: SnapsIndia

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'Narendra Modi can project himself'

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On Nitin Gadkari's exit

This is the Bharatiya Janata Party's internal issue. But in my state, in the Vidarbha region, whatever gain the BJP was getting under the leadership of Gadkari may not occur now. In Gadkari's absence the situation might change in Vidarbha. It will be better for NCP. 

On Modi's projection as a prime ministerial candidate

He can project himself. Nothing wrong in it as every politician desires to be PM. But, ultimately, acceptability, numbers all these are necessary.

If, any candidate is declared as PM's candidate by any party and is supported by allies then the picture will be clearer. The other side will also try to consolidate and find an alternative. The alternative will be such that it will fulfill the minus side of the opposite candidate.     

On Rahul Gandhi becoming vice-president of the Congress

It is the Congress party's internal decision. But if the Congress gets strengthened then it will help the UPA. I can't comment more because I don't know the person (Rahul Gandhi). I don't know his capacity. I don't know the responses of the masses to him.

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On the Congress's number two becoming prime ministerial candidate

It will depend on the number one. She has not said so yet. It could be anyone, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh... or anyone. It's up to the number one to decide.

Will it be a Rahul versus Modi match?

You see, I don't think that India has come to that decision, yet...that so and so will be the candidate for PM's post. The situation is fluid. Someone who will be accepted by everybody is yet to come in! 

Will the NCP be able to work with Rahul Gandhi if he becomes PM?

We are with the Congress party and not with an individual. 

Do you welcome Rahul becoming vice-president?

How am I concerned?


Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi


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