Speculation regarding NCP chief Sharad Pawar succeeding Sonia Gandhi as the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) refuses to die down even after the former denied the development.
On Saturday, senior Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde added more fuel to the speculation. While extending birthday wishes to Pawar, who turned 80 on Saturday, Shinde said, “He (Pawar) has seen a lot of ups and downs during the last 50 years, and has worked closely with several people. He has immense experience. If Sharad Pawar becomes UPA chairperson, I’ll like it.”
Shinde is the first Congress leader to support Pawar’s name for the role. He was speaking to the media in Mumbai. Since Thursday, when Pawar led a delegation of Opposition leaders to meet President Ramnath Kovind over the farmer protests, there has been intense speculation over Pawar helming the UPA in the near future.
Just as the NCP has said “there is no discussion with UPA in this regard, and that the reports in the media seem to have been planted by vested interests to divert attention from the ongoing farmers’ strife”, the discussion has refused to die down. Earlier, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut had backed Pawar’s name for the UPA chairperson’s role. While the Sena is still not a UPA constituent, it is an ally of Congress and NCP in Maharashtra.
Backing Pawar’s name for the national role, Shinde further said, “He has an elephantine memory. He meets several people, remembers all by name. He is accessible to party workers and leaders alike. He raises questions of the common man. (In Maharashtra) After Yeshwantrao Chavan, if there is someone who maintains cordial ties with everyone, it is Sharad Pawar. If he becomes the UPA chairperson, I’d like it,” he said. Former Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, while reacting to the talk about Pawar helming the UPA, said it was a ploy to finish the Congress.