Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has declined to be the presidential candidate who would represent the anti-BJP front, giving the possible coalition a big jolt. Pawar, a former chief minister of Maharashtra who harboured ambitions of becoming prime minister, has declined the offer because he apparently does not see the numbers stacking up in his favour.
There has been an active effort to cobble up an anti-BJP coalition in order to halt the saffron party's electoral juggernaut that has demolished all but a few opposition parties in its path. It is believed that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also Trinamool Congress chief, discussed this coalition as well as the presidential elections recently.
The loosely-forming coalition had apparently zeroed in on Pawar because they saw the wily septuagenarian as the best non-BJP candidate for the post of president, possibly because of his acceptability among prospective coalition-members. To that end, Sonia and her son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi even met him on different occasions in March and April.
However, all that has come to naught because he has declined the offer. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik was quoted by DNA as saying: "Pawar saheb declined the offer and conveyed that he would support any opposition candidate [in the presidential election] other than himself."
He added: "The NDA ally Shiv Sena had also jumped in, extending support to Pawar's candidacy. Pawar told his supporters in Solapur that the NCP was a small party, so he cannot dream of becoming president."
The step is a big blow for the coalition, because Pawar could have been a strong candidate for it. Also, the BJP failing to get its own candidate elected to the top post in the country — despite its titular nature — could have been a good start for the anti-BJP alliance.