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Pawar promises stable government

Anand Mohan Sahay | May 14, 2004 14:54 IST

A day after the National Democratic Alliance was routed in the general election, the Congress, Left parties and other 'like-minded' outfits began discussions to cobble up a government at the Centre.

At the heart of the talks was the question: Could Congress president Sonia Gandhi, a person of foreign, become prime minister?

With 145 Lok Sabha seats, the Congress is now the single largest party in Parliament and her leaders want Gandhi as prime minister.

Among her allies, it was the Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar who set the ball rolling early in this morning when he called on Gandhi at her home at 10, Janpath.

Later Pawar, whose Nationalist Congress Party has won nine seats, said all prospective partners would meet in a day or two to decide who would become prime minister.

"The issue did not come up during my meeting with her and no decision has been taken," he said.

A committee to draft the coalition's common minimum programme would be headed by Congress leader Dr Manmohan Singh. "All those who fought together and those who want to join the new coalition will sit together and discuss the issue and take a decision," said Pawar.

As to whether the NCP would join the government, he said it was a decision that would be taken by the party's working committee. At the same time, he made it clear the NCP would help and support the Congress in forming a stable coalition.

At around the same time, Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, who brings 36 Lok Sabha seats to the table, met Communist Party of India (Marxist) veteran Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

Surjeet is playing a key role in helping install a non-NDA government at the Centre.

Singh told reporters after the meeting. "The new government does not need us. If need arises, we will consider it."

Later, Uttar Pradesh chief minister and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav also met Pawar and Surjeet.

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