MUMBAI: In a significant development, National Congress Party (NCP) supremo and veteran Maharashtra politician Sharad Pawar has reportedly emerged as the front-runner to replace Sonia Gandhi as the next UPA chairperson.
According to sources, Sonia Gandhi is unwilling to continue as the UPA chief due to her poor health. She has also not been very active in mainstream politics. In such a scenario, Pawar – the Grand Old Man from Maharashtra – may be the obvious choice to lead the Congress-led alliance after she formally quits.
Pawar, being a seasoned politician, is highly respected among the UPA allies and wields considerable clout in his home state of Maharashtra.
A section of Congress leaders is of the view that Pawar should be made the chairperson of the UPA since Rahul Gandhi has apparently refused to take over as Congress president again and is unwilling to succeed his mother as UPA Chairperson as well.
It may be recalled that Sonia Gandhi was forced to become the interim president after Rahul Gandhi resigned as party president after the Lok Sabha poll debacle.
In such a scenario, a section of Congress leaders think that Rahul Gandhi may be projected as the main face of the UPA but Sharad Pawar should take over as the chairman of UPA, being its senior-most leader.
Pawar’s NCP and Congress party had earlier stitched an alliance in Maharashtra and even after losing the assembly polls. They are currently ruling the state after Shiv Sena joined them to form Maha Vikas Aghadi.
Recently, when the Opposition leaders met the President of India to discuss the ongoing farmers’ protest, Sharad Pawar led the delegation, despite the presence of former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. It is important to note that Sharad Pawar was among those who resigned in 1991, citing Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin.
The Congress will hold elections early next year to elect a new president and while Rahul Gandhi remains unwilling to assume the post, it’s clear that the party is likely to get a new president soon.
While the buzz around Pawar continues, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut has said that the NCP chief has all the qualities to lead the country. Raut, whose party now shares power with the NCP and Congress in Maharashtra, was speaking to reporters here.
Pawar has vast experience, knowledge of the issues before the country and knows “the pulse of the people”, the Sena Rajya Sabha MP said. “He has all the capabilities to lead the nation,” he added. “The Shiv Sena extends good wishes to him,” Raut said, referring to Pawar’s 80th birthday on December 12.
Asked about speculation by a section of media that Pawar may replace Congress president Sonia Gandhi as chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Raut said, “Politics is unpredictable. You never know what will happen next.”