Raigad (Maharashtra): Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel on Monday said party supremo Sharad Pawar could be the Prime Minister after the 2019 elections, indicating a likely shift in the national political scenario in the near future.
Patel also said that the NCP was willing to forge an alliance with the Congress for the Gujarat elections, and even beyond in 2019.
"2019 will be the year of NCP and Sharad Pawar. Given the current changing political situation, his (Pawar's) cherished desire may be fulfilled. He could become the PM," Patel said, addressing the party's two-day brainstorming session at Karjat here on Monday afternoon.
The former union Minister said that Pawar has the capability to lead the country and NCP workers should work hard towards this aim.
"Pawar's is an influential name in the country's politics and his views command respect all over.. Even the PM listens to him in the Parliament," Patel pointed out.
Patel also rued how attempts are being made to "defame" the NCP right now, and added that Pawar takes a mild view of such elements. Patel urged the NCP chief to give up his soft stance and become "more aggressive".
Among the elder statesmen in the country, Pawar (now 76) had broken away from the Congress to launch the NCP in May 1999, but has remained with the UPA alliance both at the Centre and in Maharashtra since then.
NCP state spokesperson Nawab Malik said that in the emerging political landscape, a situation akin to 1996-1997 was developing when many small parties had joined hands and the then Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Deve Gowda had been elevated as a consensus Prime Minister.
On the upcoming Gujarat elections, Patel said the NCP was willing to forge an alliance with the Congress, and even beyond in 2019.
"It will be damaging to both parties (Congress, NCP) if they contest separately. We may have our differences of opinion with the Congress, but there is no (ideological) conflict between the NCP and Congress," said Patel, in an iteration of the party's oft-repeated stance and the blow-hot-blow-cold relations between them.
He attacked the ruling BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on various counts, and on how the mood has swayed against the government in the past few months, the resentment among masses following demonetization, the damage to small businesses due to GST and how it (the government) has failed on commitments to all sections of society, including the farmers.
In a startling revelation, Patel recalled how, way back in 1999, the then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee had made an offer to Pawar to join the NDA government at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
"However, Pawar did not compromise with his principles and politely declined the offer. But, if he had taken up the offer, he would have been the No 2 man in the NDA government then," Patel said, emphasizing the ideological differences between the NCP and BJP - despite recent speculation that the two parties might come together.