As ill-health slows Sonia down, Sharad Pawar favourite to get UPA chief’s chair

NEW DELHI:  With Congress chief Sonia Gandhi keeping unwell, NCP chief Sharad Pawar could take over as the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), sources told TNIE.

Pawar is the senior-most leader among UPA allies and he enjoys cordial relationship with leaders across political parties.

He, along with CPM general-secretary Sitaram Yechury, coordinated a meeting of Opposition parties with President Ram Nath Kovind Wednesday over farmers’ agitation.

It was Pawar who led the delegation comprising Yechury, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, CPI general-secretary D Raja and DMK leader T K S Elangovan.

According to Congress sources, Sonia Gandhi wants to retire from active politics. Passing the baton to Rahul in December 2017 was part of the process. But after Rahul stepped down following the Congress poor performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Sonia agreed to be interim chief.

Sources pointed out that Sonia has been in and out of hospital due to severe lung infection. She could not campaign in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 due to poor health.

“The Congress is the largest party in the UPA. So, the chairperson has to be from the Congress. But if Sonia retires, Pawar being the seniormost among UPA allies may take over the responsibility of uniting the opposition and putting up a strong fight against the Modi regime,” said sources.

Pawar had resigned from the Congress in 1991, raising Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin. And, it is common knowledge that there continues to be a trust deficit between Pawar and Sonia.

However, given the BJP’s growing clout and the Congress’ weak position, the NCP leader could emerge the strong face of opposition.

However, both NCP and Congress denied any leadership change in the UPA. NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said there has been no discussion within UPA regarding any such proposal.

The Congress said the news is spread by vested interests to divert attention from farmers’ agitation.

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