Putting speculations to rest, Union Agriculture Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said he has not demanded any additional ministerial berths for his party leaders or his daughter. He also said he had asked for a reduction in his portfolio as he wants to focus on strengthening his party’s base.
Pawar was speaking at his felicitation ceremony, which was organised by Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal in a suburban city hotel on Wednesday. Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan felicitated Pawar for being selected as the president of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“Given the strength of my party in Parliament, I can’t ask for additional ministerial berth,” he said. Pawar also denied that the NCP wanted the Congress to elevate Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel to Cabinet rank.
The minister laughed off speculations that Bhujbal would be sent to the Union government to make place for his nephew Ajit in the state.
He said he had asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a reduction in his portfolio before Parliament’s monsoon session as he is handling six ministries. Refuting claims that the ICC was going to take up his time, he said he needs to go to the Dubai office of the apex cricket body once a month over a weekend.
“I want to devote more time to strengthening the base of the party. I feel guilty at times that there are some districts that I have not visited in two years, I want to reconnect with the youth leadership here,” he said.
He refuted claims in the western media, especially in Australia and New Zealand, that there is a racial issue in his selection as ICC chief. “I want to make my position clear; there is no racist angle in the ICC selection,” he said.
Pawar went on to say that as ICC chief he would be working towards expanding cricket to non-cricket playing countries such as China and USA. “The Chinese government is taking tremendous interest in the game and USA also has a sizeable population interested in cricket. The only issue is non-availability of infrastructure which I would like to resolve,” he said.