NATIONALIST CONGRESS Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday made it clear that running for President is a “closed chapter” for him.
Pawar’s assertion came on a day he had a long, nearly hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I am not keen (to be in the race for Rashtrapati Bhavan). I already told them (opposition parties) in very clear terms – for me, it is a closed chapter,” the former Union minister said interacting with a group of journalists at his residence today.
With this refusal, opposition parties, which were said to have been trying to persuade the Maratha strongman to enter the race, will be forced to look at other “acceptable names”. According to some opposition leaders, Pawar’s candidature would have helped garner the support of the Shiv Sena, an NDA partner from his home state Maharashtra, and cause some discomfort to the BJP, which is learnt to be not keen on a second term for Pranab Mukherjee and ostensibly wants to put up its own candidate. The Sena had twice broken ranks with the NDA and supported, first, Pratibha Patil and then Mukherjee.
Besides Pawar, among some prominent names doing the rounds as consensus Opposition candidate are former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, besides former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar of the Congress. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that a sub-group formed by opposition parties for the Presidential polls is likely to meet within a week to firm up with a consensus candidate.
Meanwhile, the long meeting between Modi and Pawar raised eyebrows. Pawar said he raised issues of farmer suicides and loan waiver, as demanded by farmers, during the meeting.