Congress coterie connived twice to keep Pawar off PM’s post: Patel

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Mumbai, Dec. Dec 12 (IANS) In an embarrassing revelation, senior Nationalist Congress Party leader and General Secretary Praful Patel on Saturday claimed a coterie of Congress leaders had prevented NCP President Sharad Pawar from becoming the Prime Minister on two occasions.
“What I say is what we saw when we were with the Congress. It had happened within the Congress, its not an outsider’s perspective,” Patel – a former union minister said, during the birthday felicitations of Pawar in Mumbai this afternoon.
His response came to a query on an article written by him – referring to the two opportunities Pawar missed in 1991 and 1996 – which was carried as an advertorial by several media houses today.
“We have 48 seats (in Maharashtra) and if the people of the state want, Pawar Saheb can be there (PM). We always wanted him to occupy that post, and we have to ensure that the dream is realised,” Patel exhorted.
Patel’s remarks came barely a couple of days after some speculation emerged from New Delhi that Pawar could be the next United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson to help consolidate the national opposition vis-a-vis the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA at the Centre.
Dwelling on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the 1991 general elections, Patel said the party was in great shock over the unfortunate event even as the results were out and the Congress was very close to a majority
“There was a big group in the (Congress) which believed that the Prime Ministerial candidate should be a young, dynamic person like Pawar who also had a good grip of the administration. Even Congress party leadership in various states were of the same opinion,” Patel wrote.
“However, a scheming coterie of the Congress again united and used – or rather misused – Sonia Gandhi’s name to anoint P. V. Narasimha Rao as the Prime Minister and Pawar saheb was entrusted with the important responsibility of Defence Minister” he said on the 1991 developments.
Touching on the 1996 episode, Patel said: “In the 1996 Lok Sabha polls, 145 MPs of Congress won the elections. H. D. Deve Gowda, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Left leaders agreed to a single point agenda that ‘Sharad Pawar should take lead and ask P. V. Narasimha Rao to step aside. If this happens, we are willing to support a Congress government led by a Congress party’. However, Rao didn’t flinch at all and Congress was forced to support the Deve Gowda government from outside. I can talk about these developments with conviction as most of them were happening from my house.”
On the internal elections in Congress, Patel said: “In the elections, I, Bhupinder Hooda, PC Chacko, Girija Vyas and others came together and defeated the panel that was supported by P. V. Narasimha Rao. He resigned from the Congress President’s post. However, he forwarded the name of Sitaram Kesari to ensure that Pawar was not selected for the President’s post. Sitaram Kesari became the President of the Congress party.”
After the Congress’s Kesari withdrew support to the Deve Gowda government in 1997, 125 MPs met at Pawar’s residence and extended their support to him, but Pawar chose not to take any steps to prevent a split in the party.
Patel contended that it was Pawar’s targeting by his opponents within the Congress which led him to float his own party, the NCP in 1999.
Patel said there was a plot against Pawar since 1989 when he was the Maharashtra Chief Minister – “I have witnessed these conspiracies hatched against him in Delhi, how he lost the PM-ship though he was within a striking distance.”

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