Even after Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi spoke of Manmohan Singh as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the NCP and the SP — on behalf of Sharad Pawar and Mulayam Singh Yadav — threw their hat in the ring for the top job in a bid to build pressure on their senior alliance partner.
On Sunday, Pawar and SP general secretary Amar Singh met to discuss a seat-sharing arrangement between the two parties in Maharashtra. They decided not to obstruct each other if the situation arose for Pawar or Yadav to become the PM. But, at the same time, they added that Manmohan Singh remained their leader.
“So far only Manmohan Singh is our leader. But if Sharad Pawar or Mulayam Singh Yadav get a chance (to become PM) they will not oppose each other,” said Amar Singh after the meeting.
His comments came amid speculation that there would be several claimants for the PM’s post if the elections threw up a hung House.
“To talk about the PM’s post is unnecessary and without any context,” said Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi. He also dubbed as “futile” the debate whether Manmohan Singh would contest the elections. “Several Prime Ministers have been members of the Rajya Sabha. The Constitution permits it. The Supreme Court has affirmed it.”
The issue, Singhvi said, was being deliberately raised by the BJP whose PM candidate, L.K. Advani, would need to “cross many mountains before he achieves the sobriety, balance, integrity, stature and respect which Manmohan Singh enjoys. You cannot hope to achieve that slot through divisive tactics like the rath yatra and Jinnah remarks”.
But the NCP and the SP are said to be upset with the Congress for ruling out a national alliance and opting for state-level understandings. Both are keen that the party accommodate them outside Maharashtra and UP respectively in order to strengthen the UPA “in letter and spirit”.
Sunday’s interaction between the two parties was followed by a meeting Pawar held with his senior leaders Praful Patel, D.P. Tripathi and Tariq Anwar.
The Congress and the NCP will meet next week to discuss the formula for Maharashtra’s 48 seats. The SP is reportedly unwilling to give the Congress more than a dozen of the 80 UP seats.