The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pawar boast on Sonia 'sacrifice'

New Delhi, Sept. 24: Sharad Pawar today said Sonia Gandhi's decision not to become Prime Minister had vindicated his stand on foreign origin, in what is seen as posturing with an eye on the Maharashtra elections and the governance pie at the Centre.

Pawar put a new spin on Manmohan Singh's recent remarks about Sonia declining the top post to make it appear, at least to voters in Maharashtra, that his party is dictating terms to the UPA.

'We had parted ways with the party (Congress) on the issue... When the situation arose for leading the nation, then Sonia declared that she would not accept the responsibility and gave it to Manmohan Singh. This shows that they had accepted what we were demanding,' the NCP chief was quoted as telling a private news channel today.

The remarks were aimed as much at his own party, which could see a clamour for merger with the Congress after next month's elections, as at voters. Pawar's posturing also reflects the feeling among some allies that the Left is getting a bigger say in governance because it has been assertive and that they should follow suit.

Pawar's claim that the Congress had accepted his party's stand comes days after Singh said he knew Sonia was not going to accept the top post as soon as election results started to pour in on May 13.

With the credibility of his NCP, which has allied with the Congress, and his own stature as the tallest leader of the state at stake in the 'do or die' battle in Maharashtra, Pawar added that he would not have become minister in a Sonia cabinet.

' I would not have become a minister because I had taken a public stand (on the foreign origin issue),' he added. Pawar had left the Congress to float the NCP five years ago on the foreign origin issue.

His party colleagues ascribed his remarks to the coming elections. 'It is a locally-oriented' remark that would have no consequence at the national level.

'Now that she (Sonia) has not become Prime Minister, Pawar's comments do not suggest anything (about)' NCP's politics at the national level,' they said.

But in the light of the remarks, his colleagues said, 'we can blunt any criticism of Pawar or the NCP regarding our alliance with the Congress in the United Progressive Alliance government. We can take credit saying it is we who dictated terms'.

However, the Congress is none too happy with Pawar. Party leaders said he had buried the foreign origin issue before joining hands with the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls. 'If the issue still mattered to him, was there any need for him to part company with P.A. Sangma' they asked.

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