NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Friday gave hints that he would like to be in the prime ministerial race and probably expects Left support in the bid in any muddled post-poll scenario.
Pawar said that Manmohan Singh was the prime ministerial candidate only of the Congress but parried questions whether the Left could put conditions on the issue of leadership in the event of a hung verdict.
Giving signals that he was in the prime ministerial race, he said "The situation is like school and college, where 60 marks are there for theory and 40 for practicals. Third Front-Left got marks from practicals.
"A student like me always depended upon practical marks to reach the magic figure in my school days. So, I think today also situation will be similar. Left cannot be left out is my personal assessment of the post-poll scenario," he said in an interview in the midst of hectic electioneering.
The Union Agriculture minister counselled Congress not to be harsh towards the Left as their support would be crucial in the post-poll scenario. With an eye on Left support, Pawar has been trying to keep them in good humour saying those parties had supported the UPA for four years and that the Congress-led coalition cannot rule out taking its support.
Dismissing the view that the Third Front is like characters in search of a Prime Minister, he said it should not be forgotten that with the support of "major members of the Third Front" the UPA formed the government.
"The support lasted for over four years. There is every possibility that after the elections time may come that UPA partners will have to discuss with Left and other secular parties to provide an alternative," Pawar said.
The NCP leader, who is scheduled to address the first joint rally with Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Maharashtra today, said "I am with UPA and will be with UPA." He said he will "not be surprised" if some additional parties come forward to associate with the UPA in the post poll scenario.
Pawar's statement comes close on the heels of the NCP leader sharing a platform with BJD and Left parties in Bhubaneshwar leading to speculation that he was part of the Third Front.
Asked whether the Left parties could put up conditions for the UPA on the issue of Manmohan Singh's leadership in the event of a hung verdict, "I cannot say on that. At least last time, there was no such condition. They were insisting on programme."
To a query how a prime ministerial candidate would be chosen by the UPA after elections, he said after the polls, partners will sit together and take a decision, indicating that the issue was wide open. Replying to a question, he insisted that Manmohan Singh is the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress.
NCP wanted the alliance to be at national level, a common programme and a common leadership, Pawar said adding “We could not make Congress accept those suggestions and Congress has decided to form alliances state by state.”
He said Congress decided to project a prime ministerial candidate on behalf of the party. “They have every right, but I would have been more happy if such an important issue was first discussed among UPA partners and a decision taken,” he said.
Asked what was his advice to Congress, he said, "I have no advice, but it should realise that the Left will never agree or happy to see a situation where the NDA forms government. ”... they will always prefer that secular elements should come together and provide an alternative and form a government... they might put some conditions but lastly they will see that secular forces come together and that is why one should not be very harsh on them,“ he said.
Noting that for four years the Left had helped the UPA government with stability, he said there should be “some different approach and attitude” towards them.
On the fourth front launched by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, he said that he expressed confidence that it would again re-assemble under the umbrella of UPA after the elections and there will be “no problem”.
Pawar also visualised not much problem for the UPA after the polls maintaining that “all UPA partners and a section of all other secular parties will definately come together as they don’t want the BJP to come to power. They will realise that there is no other viable alternative to form government”.
When pressed about reports of his candidature for Prime Ministership, Pawar said, “I cannot say what is the situation until and unless the results are out.”
“If any member of UPA or NDA got a substantial number which is near the magic figure, the question will automatically end,” he said.
“But if the situation is altogether different, then all other parties have to be taken into confidence,” he said adding that there will be clarity on it after the elections.
Pawar, however, said that that there would not be any serious differences among UPA partners and they will resolve it amicably.
Asked whether NDA was more sharing than the UPA, he said he was not aware of that. “I have no experience. Manmohan Singh’s approach towards running the government was quite positive.”
On sharing of power by Congress at the Centre for the first time since 2004, Pawar said all political parties have realised that the days of single party rule have gone.
“I don't know when people of India will restore their old thinking. As of today, no single party will be able to provide single-party government,” he said.
Replying to another question, he attacked BJP for returning to its Hindutva agenda and said their hardline and communal agenda with sectarian approach is “definitely harmful to the country”.