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Alliance on the cards? NCP chief Sharad Pawar makes overtures to Congress, praises Rahul Gandhi

Pawar’s praise for the Congress and its newly elected president has come at a time when elections for the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly are scheduled for next year

mumbai Updated: Feb 22, 2018 15:19 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
Congress,BJP,NCP
MNS chief Raj Thackeray interviews Pawar publicly at Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce in Pune on Wednesday.(Sanket Wankhade/HT)

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s remarks on Wednesday are being seen as his overtures to the Congress. At a function in Pune, where Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray interviewed Pawar publicly, the NCP chief said only the Congress could take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The Congress has considerably weakened in the country over the years, but the fact is that it was the only national party with the ability to take on the ruling BJP,” Pawar told Thackeray.

The interview, held at Pawar’s alma mater Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, was organised by Jagtik Marathi Academy.

Pawar also spoke well of Rahul Gandhi, for which the Congress’ Maharashtra unit thanked him. “Even Gandhi is changing. He is willing to learn. He is a learner who has evolved immensely,” the veteran leader said. “If the people support him, the Congress can be revived. A strong opposition is required to strengthen democracy,” he said.

In response, state Congress chief Ashok Chavan tweeted, “The Congress is satisfied with the remarks expressed by Honourable Pawar that the Congress need to be strengthened in the interest of the country.”

Pawar’s praise for the Congress and its newly elected president has come at a time when elections for the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly are scheduled for next year. It is said that Pawar is interested in forging an alliance with Congress and thus wants to improve his relationship with Gandhi.

This is not the first time Pawar has praised Gandhi. During a party conclave held at Karjat near Mumbai in November last year, Pawar had praised the then Congress vice president. “He is unlike the image created by the BJP through social media. He always tries to understand issues and is also hardworking. But, I advised him to be consistent in whatever he does,” Pawar said.

The NCP has indicated an alliance with the Congress, with Pawar saying his party would like to ally with the like-minded parties. In Maharashtra, the Congress and the NCP have also started looking into the possibilities of having a pre-poll for Assembly elections to be held in 2019. Senior leaders from the state unit of both parties held preliminary talks earlier this month.

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 13:46 IST