In disparate comments that revealed the tensions in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the NCP on Wednesday backed Manmohan Singh for another term as prime minister but the RJD maintained that he was only the Congress candidate.
While Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi heaped praise on Manmohan Singh and the NCP supported his candidature, Rashtriya Janata Dal deputy leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha Devendra Prasad Yadav said: "Manmohan Singh is the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress. He is not the prime ministerial candidate of the UPA."
The RJD, whose relations with the Congress have been strained after the failure of a pre-poll alliance in Bihar, said the entire scenario would change after the elections and the prime minister could be decided only after the Lok Sabha elections.
Stating that his party leader Lalu Prasad also had a chance to be the prime minister, Devendra Prasad told IANS over telephone from his constituency Jhanjharpur in Bihar that who the next prime minister would be would depend on the election result. "It will depend on the numerical strength in the 15th Lok Sabha."
Asked whether the RJD would remain a UPA partner after the elections, Devendra Yadav said: "We will be with secular forces. The numerical position of the parties will decide what stand the party (RJD) should take. The Left parties are also secular."
The NCP sounded a more amicable note when its general secretary D.P. Tripathi told IANS: "We have already supported his candidature. The UPA's candidate (prime minister) is Manmohan Singh."
The Congress and NCP have announced a 26-22 seat sharing agreement for Maharashtra but the RJD tied up with the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), leaving the Congress high and dry.
Asked about NCP chief Sharad Pawar's prime ministerial ambitions, Tripathi said: "No question about it."
Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Tuesday that there could be many contenders for the post of prime minister, but nobody measured up to Manmohan Singh.
Her son and party general secretary echoed the sentiment on Wednesday in Puducherry, calling him "one of the tall leaders" of the country who had achieved "a hell of a lot".