- An alliance was not discussed in Rashtra Manch meet, Sharad Pawar said
- If alternative force is made, it will be done by taking Congress, he said
- He called for "collective leadership" if any front is considered
The Congress cannot be left out of any alternative front to take on the BJP, senior politician Sharad Pawar said Friday, days after a meeting at his home in Delhi sparked wild speculation about Third Front moves for the 2024.
"An alliance was not discussed in the (Rashtra Manch) meeting but if an alternative force is to be raised, it will be done only by taking Congress together. We need power like that and I had said this in that meeting," the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
He also called for "collective leadership" if any front is considered. Asked if he would lead the new front, he quipped: "Sharad Pawar has tried this many times before."
Sharad Pawar's meetings with political strategist Prashant Kishor have generated many headlines over the past few weeks, but a meeting at his home on Tuesday was watched and dissected with interest.
Mr Pawar, it turned out, was the host but the meeting was organised by the Rashtra Manch, a forum founded by former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha.
While representatives of eight political parties attended the meet, apart from well-known legal luminaries and journalists, there was nothing political about the gathering, said the organisers, underscoring that it was a discussion on current issues before the nation.
Notably, the Congress was missing though three leaders were invited.
Though meetings like this raise talk about a non-BJP, non-Congress front, some parties like the Left believe that any offensive to take on the might of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will need a pan-Indian party like the Congress.
There was no discussion of a political front at the Tuesday meeting, said Mr Pawar, a veteran of coalitions, a skilled negotiator and one of India's most experienced politicians with a vast experience in the government.
On a leadership role for him in any Third Front to take on the BJP in the next general election in 2024, he said: "We haven't discussed but I think we'll have to go ahead by taking a role of collective leadership. I did this for years but right now I'll work for keeping everyone together, guiding and strengthening them."
Mr Pawar is familiar to the role of rallying parties together. He is credited with alliances as inconceivable as the ideologically opposed Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra.