‘Clock’ Ticking on NCP-Congress Alliance?
Backing Down! In what was widely being viewed as a placatory move to save the party’s dying alliance with the Congress and also to send out the right signals to the emergent Third Front, NCP leader Sharad Pawar on Thursday said he was not in race for the prime minister’s post while iterating that every party had a right to take a shot at the top position.
Playing down NCP calls demanding his catapult to the top post, Pawar said that he was aware of ground realities.
“We contest on limited seats and that’s why it’s not possible for us to stake claim for the prime ministerial chair,” say media reports attributing the quote to Pawar.
Calls for a Mahrashtrian prime minister raised by Shiv Sena and the NCP have brought Congress efforts for a seat-sharing deal with Pawar to a standstill, especially as the UPA principal terms the Third Front an alliance of aspiring prime ministers.
Though the pro-Maharashtrian calls helped the Shiv Sena get back onto business, Pawar was not as lucky and faces the prospect of going it alone in the elections, which may see the two UPA parties share the meager secular votes in the state.
In no mood to let allies corner it, the Congress has clarified that the top post in the UPA was reserved for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Responding to Pawar’s observations that said allies were within their rights to aspire for the top post, Congress clarified that there was no room for aspiring prime ministers in the alliance it heads.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said “Congress is the largest pan-Indian political party and it will lead the UPA coalition.”
Amid early indications of a terribly hung parliament, several players on the political firmament say that that the shape of the ruling coalition could only be decided after the elections, and Pawar has been no exception.
Adding to Congress worries, the NCP has also been hobnobbing with UPA constituents miffed over Congress’ refusal to enter a national alliance before the polls and also to give-in to allies’ demands of more seats in the few regional deals it struck.
NCP firebrand and known Sonia Gandhi detractor, PA Sangma has already made public his intentions to cobble together an anti-Congress alliance in the northeast, the move is to prevent any attempt by the Congress to polarize the anti-Congress votes in the sister states.
The NCP is also part of anti-Congress government in Nagaland, while it was at the helm of the ruling MPA in Meghalaya, which was dismissed by a Union Cabinet directive on Wednesday.
Pawar’s clarification of his prime ministerial aspirations was, perhaps, in the last ditch to save the secular votes in Maharashtra from the prospect of polarization – inevitable if the two parties fail to ink a pre-poll deal.
With the ‘clock’ ticking away on the Cong-NCP alliance, whether or not Pawar’s statements hit the intended target is something only time will tell, que sera sera.