Even after Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi spoke of Manmohan Singh as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Samajwadi Party (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 coalition partner.
On Sunday, Pawar and SP general secretary Amar Singh met to discuss a seat sharing arrangement between the two parties in Maharashtra. But they also decided not to obstruct each other if the situation arose for Pawar or Yadav to become PM while asserting, at the same time, that Manmohan Singh remained their leader.
“So far only Manmohan Singh is our leader. But if Sharad Pawar gets a chance or Mulayam Singh Yadav gets 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 Lok Sabha elections threw up a hung House and led to political realignments.
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 Congress accommodate them outside Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh respectively in order to strengthen the UPA “in letter and spirit.”
In the face of the Congress’ reluctance, the NCP and the SP sought to build pressure on it by deciding to hammer out a seat-sharing arrangement in Maharashtra.
The Congress and the NCP will meet next week to discuss the seat sharing formula for Maharashtra’s 48 seats. The NCP wants a reversal of the 2004 formula that had seen the Congress contesting 26 seats against the NCP’s 22. It also wants to bring all secular parties, including the SP, on the same platform.
The SP is unwilling to give the Congress more than a dozen of the 80 seats in UP. SP has already announced 58 candidates.