Pawar's Move to Attend Third Front Rally a Shocker - Deshmukh


Mumbai, Apr 3: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar's decision to attend the Third Front rally at Bhubaneshwar has come as a shocker for Congress, former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said.

"It (Pawar attending the Third Front rally) is a shocking move for us," Deshmukh, who had made a strong pitch for the Congress going in alone in the state Lok Sabha polls, said.

Asked if such an action from Pawar was expected, Deshmukh said "we did not think like that. The way the poll related talks (between the two parties) were held, we did not think so."

"Only the post-poll scenario will decide whether my stand was right," Deshmukh, said when asked if his apprehensions over tie-up with NCP have been proved right after Pawar's latest move.

"Whether my view was right or wrong, the analysis would be there only after the polls, Deshmukh said. The Congress-NCP combine may bag around 30 to 32 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state," he added.

There was a general feeling among Congress workers that Congress should fight the elections on its own, without poll pact with NCP, he said.

"There are lakhs of party workers. They lose chance to contest if the party contests only a limited seats. The alliance is only for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls and not for local body elections. The workers demand fighting on their own in the local polls but that leads to confusion at the grassroots level," he said.

Asked about Pawar's prime ministerial ambitions and NCP's stance on the issue, Deshmukh said, "Congress agreed to an alliance with NCP only after they (NCP) agreed to support Manmohan Singh as prime minister."

"We will accept only the stance adopted by NCP in front of our leaders. It is another matter what the people in Pawar's party feel. But everyone, including even Lalu Prasad Yadav and Paswan who are not contesting with Congress, have supported Manmohan Singh's candidature," Deshmukh said.

Talking about his own candidature for the coming polls, Deshmukh said, "I was never keen on contesting Lok Sabha elections. From day one, my stance was that my native Latur Lok Sabha seat has been reserved and that I am not interested," Deshmukh said when asked about reports that he wanted to contest the Lok Sabha poll.

"Our aim is to improve our overall tally in the state and concentrate on areas like Vidarbha and Marathwada where we fared badly during the 2004 polls," Deshmukh, among the most sought-after speakers at Congress campaign rallies in the state, said.

On the future of his intra-party rival and industry minister Narayan Rane in Congress, the former chief minister said, "any decision in Congress is dependent on the party high command. Individuals need not worry. The high command decides in what capacity to use a person."

The ruling combine would have it easy as the opposition lacks a poll plank, Deshmukh said.

People know that the Congress-led governments at the Centre and state have taken several steps in their interest. Inflation is under control, gas prices have come down and there is the Rs 71,000 crore loan waiver for farmers, he said.

While the Congress has star campaigners like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, opposition lacks leaders of similar caliber, he said.

Sonia is expected to address rallies during every phase of the three-phase poll in the state, he said, adding that she is likely to be in Vidarbha around April 10.

Polling in first phase on April 16 includes 10 Lok Sabha seats in Vidarbha region which has seen thousands of farmers committing suicide over the last few years.

On an 'outsider' being given Congress ticket from Latur, Deshmukh said," Congress wanted to give representation to the Matang backward community and it was felt that Jaywantrao Awale, MPCC working president who hails from Kolhapur, fits the bill."

"It was not as if there were no local candidates available but party interest comes first. Awale is an experienced politician and has been a legislator and minister," he said.


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Title: Pawar's Move to Attend Third Front Rally a Shocker - Deshmukh

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