Can Sharad Pawar take over as UPA chairperson from Sonia?

New Delhi: As the Congress gears up for elections to the party president’s post, talks are going on informally within the constituents of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) about who will head it. The multi-party alliance was was formed in 2004 and Sonia Gandhi has continued to be its chairperson ever since.

Even though the clout of Congress has weakened considerably it is still the largest constituent in the UPA in terms of MPs and a pan-India presence.

Parties in UPA

The other prominent members of the UPA are the NCP, DMK, RJD, JMM and the Shiv Sena, by association of leading the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra.

Among the likely names to replace Sonia Gandhi, a strong contender is Sharad Pawar. Pawar may replace Gandhi if she retires after the baton of the Congress is passed on to another leader.

Pawar and Rahul Gandhi share cordial relations. On Tuesday they were part of the delegation that met President Ram Nath Kovind.

With the demise of Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi may find it tough to reach out to people and within the Congress, nobody has a good rapport with leaders from other parties.

Sharad Pawar

Pawar on the other hand shares a good rapport with almost all the political parties and it will be interesting if he takes on the mantle from Sonia Gandhi and keeps the UPA legacy going.

Pawar, who turns 80 on December 12, has more than 50 years of political experience behind him. He

has held top posts such as chief minister, Union Minister and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

He may have parted ways with the Congress over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins but joined the UPA government in 2004 as Agriculture Minister.

However, Congress General Secretary Tariq Anwar, a former close aide of Pawar, dismisses all such speculation. “There is no truth in it and the discussion is being brought up to divert attention from the ongoing farmers’ agitation.”

NCP spokesperson,and minister in Maharashtra government Nawab Malik says he doesn’t know where the speculation is emerging from. “Pawar Saheb has all the qualities and capabilities for the position. In a recent interview, he said that he’ll work for opposition unity but who will be the leader isn’t important.”

Pawar is also the architect of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra that upstaged the BJP. “You never know what can happen in politics. Sharad Pawar ji has vast experience, knowledge of the issues before the country and knows the pulse of the people,” says Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut.