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Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, April 03, 2009
Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar’s decision to share the dais with Third Front constituents at a rally organised by Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar on Friday is causing ripples, but the man himself is unfazed. “What’s wrong in seeking alliances with other political parties when the Congress itself has limited the alliance with us to just Maharashtra and Goa,” he asked, while talking to Hindustan Times on Thursday.

“Why just Patnaik? I tried for an alliance with Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu too, and one with Farooq Abdullah in J&K. But these attempts fell through. However, having been given one Lok Sabha seat and eight assembly seats by Patnaik, it is my duty to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as he launches his campaign and help him win as many seats as possible.”

Would this not send out the wrong message? “We accepted the Congress’s decision to go for State-wise alliances without question. Now they should have no problems if we seek our own alliances. Every UPA ally has the right to do that. The only party that is taboo is the BJP. And if you talk about the Left parties, well, the NCP has an MLA in Kerala who won with the support of the Left. So they have been our allies long before these elections.”

Congressmen are wary, with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram saying in Delhi that it would be better if Pawar stayed away from the BJD rally. Pawar’s supporters, however, say the Congress should consider that he is keeping a line open to the Third Front -- post-election, he could be the UPA’s bridge to Patnaik and the Left.

Pawar himself says, “In the States, I am an ally of some of the non-BJP NDA parties. At the Centre, of course, I am sitting firmly with the UPA.”

The question that worries the Congress is: for how long?