Shinde: I'll be happy to see Pawar PM
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Just days ahead of the AICC session on January 17, where the Congress is expected to make its stand clear on party vice-president Rahul Gandhi's candidature as its prime ministerial candidate, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Saturday was quoted as saying that he would be "happy" to see NCP president Sharad Pawar as the Prime Minister.
"I would be happy if Sharad Pawar becomes the Prime Minister. He is my political guru, I must admit I entered politics because of Sharad Pawar. He brought me to politics in Maharashtra," Shinde was quoted as saying at an interaction with the media in his constituency, Solapur, in western Maharashtra.
"Everyone has ambition. He has been trying (to become the Prime Minister) since 1992... I believe Pawar has been a victim of Delhi politics... There is no reason for harbouring two views about my support to Pawar as Prime Minister. I have said this many times, even on the national platform," he was quoted as saying.
When contacted by The Sunday Express, Shinde did not deny the remarks, but claimed that he was quoted out of context. "My support to Pawar as Prime Minister was in response to questions asked by mediapersons. It was not as if I was pitching Pawar's candidature. It should be seen in the right perspective and not projected wrongly," he said. "My support will always be for Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister," he said, asserting his loyalty to party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.
In Delhi, AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra Mohan Prakash refused to comment, saying he was unaware of the context in which Shinde made the observations. Party spokesperson Meem Afzal claimed Shinde had already denied the remarks, and hence he had nothing to add.
But a senior Congress minister in Maharashtra said, "It does not augur well for the party which is pitching Rahul Gandhi for the post". Some Maharashtra PCC leaders indicated a "ploy" to streamline the party's strained relationship with the NCP. "Shinde is a seasoned Congress leader. He would never make a mistake. There is a definite ploy," said a party leader.