‘Sharad Pawar himself would not want to become UPA chief’: P Chidambaram

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress has expressed its dismay over Sena’s criticism on UPA.
P Chidambaram
Congress Leader Chidambaram at Press Conference

Senior Congress leader and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram on Sunday said that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar would not want to be declared the chief of Opposition’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA), as there is no such thing that exists.

The comment comes at a time when Pawar’s name is making rounds for UPA chairperson’s post with the Shiv Sena also batting for the veteran leader and pressing for the need for Opposition parties to come together at the national level.

While speaking to news agency ANI, Chidambaram said, “I don’t think even Mr Sharad Pawar wants to be declared as the chairperson of UPA. When these parties meet, the natural person to extend the invitation and the natural person to preside over the meeting will be the leader of the largest party; we are not selecting a prime minister. There is no such thing as the chairperson of UPA.”

Chidambaram said among the UPA allies, Congress has the largest bench strength in the Parliament.

“The UPA consists of about nine or 10 parties, the biggest in our alliance being the Congress, with roughly about 95 or 100 members in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,” he told ANI.

The former finance minister said if the Congress calls for a meeting of the alliance, “it is only natural that a Congress leader will preside over the meeting”. “Some of the parties may take the initiative to call the meeting of UPA and Congress will attend it, but if the Congress is calling a meeting, it is only natural that one of its own leaders will preside over the meeting,” Chidambaram said.

He also stressed on the importance of UPA and its allies working together to make the alliance stronger nationwide.

Speculations are rife that the parties in the Opposition are in favour of Pawar taking a lead to form a formidable combine to take on the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) at the national level. Pawar himself had expressed the need for such a combine and had pressed that Congress should take the lead by keeping differences with parties such as the Trinamool Congress (TMC) at bay.

Shiv Sena parliamentarian and chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut on Saturday said the UPA has weakened and has lost its relevance. He also had stated that apart from interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Pawar also has support from a cross-section of people and leaders from other parties in the Opposition. Pawar is the only leader who is taken seriously even by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he had said.

“The time has come to expand the scope of UPA by inducting more allies. All Opposition parties should come together against the dictatorial attitude of the central government. A weak Opposition is bad for democracy,” he had said.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress has expressed its dismay over Sena’s criticism on UPA.

“Our alliance with Sena is limited to Maharashtra and it is based on the common minimum programme that we had finalised before forming the state government. Sena has no business to comment on UPA and it’s not a part of the [UPA] alliance as yet. All the alliance partners have full faith in the leadership of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has been leading the alliance efficiently. As far as the leadership of UPA by Sharad Pawar is concerned, he too, has refused any such proposal,” said Maharashtra public works department minister and former state chief minister Ashok Chavan.

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