Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday said he would not oppose the creation of Vidarbha out of Maharashtra if a majority of the people in the state wanted it.
"…I am for the state, for the unity of the state," Pawar said in an interview to CNN-IBN. "But I am also of the firm view that if a sizeable section of society, particularly from the (Vidarbha) region, wants a separate state and that separate state will be the viable state, then I will not come in their way."
Pawar's statement comes in the wake of the UPA government's decision to allow Telangana state to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, which has rekindled demands for creation of smaller states in other parts of the country, including Vidarbha, dubiously known as the "land of farmer suicides".
Pawar, chief of Nationalist Congress Party — a UPA ally — said he was not aspiring to become the prime minister after the 2014 parliamentary polls.
"You see, I myself am not going to contest the Lok Sabha elections," he said. "That decision I have taken. Secondly I know the limitations. A person, who is expecting to become the prime minister, should have at least 40 MPs from his own party. My party is not going to contest even that many number of seats. So we are not expecting anything that is unrealistic. In such a situation, my desire will be that there is a stable government; there has to be a progressive government."
According to Pawar, the possibility of a third front following the polls was dim.
"It is too early to say that," he said. "As of today, I don't see the possibility of a third front. Ultimately if we are to form the government, either it will be a Congress-led government or a Congress-supported government."
He said that when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was active in politics, comfort levels of other political parties, regional parties were much better. "A sizeable section in the political arena accepted Vajpayee as a leader and he could provide a stable government for five years," he said.
On Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi being projected as Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate, Pawar said the move could benefit Modi's state, but beyond that it was difficult to comment as it was debatable whether the party would get huge support from regional parties.
Asked if there early elections could be expected following the food ordinance, Pawar said, "I don't think that government is thinking of early elections."
He dismissed talk of the UPA being in a hurry to get the food security ordinance passed.
"No, it is not hurry," he said. "In the ordinance also we have given six months to every state. States have to prepare list of beneficiaries and take precautionary measure for this."
The minister also clarified that he was not against the food security bill, as had been reported in certain sections of the media. "I was insisting that we had to provide more budgetary position for enhancing agriculture production and to keep continuity in this process," he added.