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LOP an “essential” institution: Pawar


Amid the continuing suspense over the Leader of Opposition issue, NCP president Sharad Pawar today said the institution was “essential”

SHARAD PAWARMumbai: Amid the continuing suspense over the Leader of Opposition issue, NCP president Sharad Pawar today said the institution was “essential”.

“It is essential that there be this institution,” Pawar, whose party in a key ally of Congress, told reporters here.

Pawar’s statement came in the backdrop of Congress deciding to write to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to seek an immediate decision in the matter and Congress president Sonia Gandhi insisting that being the single-largest party and pre-poll alliance it was entitled to the post.

“We are the single-largest party. We have got a pre-poll alliance. Hence, we are entitled to the Leader of Opposition’s post,” Gandhi had said on Monday, breaking her silence on the issue.

Party spokesman Anand Sharma had said Congress would exercise all options to ensure a “democratically correct and logical conclusion” to the issue and did not rule out the possibility of approaching courts for redress.

About the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, due in October, Pawar said a decision on the number of seats to be contested by Congress and NCP would be taken at the national level.

Asked if NCP contesting 50 per cent (144 of state’s 288) seats would be a precondition when leaders of the two parties sit to discuss seat-sharing, Pawar said, “it can be more than 144 or less than 144. Winnability will be a factor in the talks.”

When pointed out that senior NCP leaders like his nephew and deputy CM Ajit Pawar and state party president Sunil Tatkare have insisted on NCP contesting at least 144 seats given the party’s better performance in the Lok Sabha elections than Congress, Pawar retorted, “please remember that I am the party president.”

Asked if NCP will project any leader as a CM candidate ahead of polls, Pawar said, “we will first see what the picture is from the other side. Then we will decide.”

When his attention was drawn to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan pleading ignorance about the reported offer from Congress leadership that Pawar lead the joint poll campaign in the state, the NCP chief said, “Chavan was not present at the meeting when the proposal was made.”

Will not oppose TRAI amendment bill: Pawar

NCP will not oppose the Bill to amend TRAI Act which seeks to remove a legal hurdle in appointment of former chairman of telecom regulatory body Nripendra Mishra as principal secretary to the Prime Minister, party chief Sharad Pawar said today.

“We will not oppose it in Parliament. There is no need to take an extreme step,” Pawar said, reflecting divisions in the UPA over the issue.

Congress has raised objections to the government’s move to amend the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India act, saying it was done in “unholy haste”.

“It is not as if a person has left government service and joined Reliance or another private sector. He has returned to the government sector,” Pawar told reporters here.

The NCP president cited the example of TKA Nair, an IAS officer of Punjab cadre, who after retiring from service became principal secretary to Manmohan Singh when he was the Prime Minister.

Igoring objections by political parties, government yesterday introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha to replace an ordinance issued on May 28 to change a clause in the TRAI Act which would have prevented Misra from taking up the government post after retirement.

Misra, a 1967 batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre who retired in 2009, joined the PMO the same day the ordinance was promulgated and the bill has been brought to give his appointment the requisite legal backing.

Congress has indicated it would oppose the legislation, saying “unholy haste and focus in having one person, who is challenged by law, shows that they have scant regard for the processes of law.”

Pawar asks govt to exercise caution on FDI in defence

NCP president Sharad Pawar today advocated a “cautious approach” to FDI in the sensitive defence sector.

“We are all for FDI in infrastructure sector but when it comes to Defence, there is a need for a rationalistic approach,” Pawar, a former Defence Minister, told reporters.

He was responding to queries about the Narendra Modi government’s decision to raise Foreign Direct Investment cap in the defence sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

“We have to take a careful decision on who is coming forward to invest. (Whether) a neighouring country is coming forward (to invest) then we have to apply our mind,” Pawar said.

“There are certain sensitive items (in defence sector). One has to be cautious,” he said.

To a query on the performance of the Modi government so far, Pawar said, “the picture in these last 40 days is not as per expectation of the people. This will certainly have a bearing on the (Maharashtra assembly) polls.”

Asked about his views on appointment of Amit Shah as BJP president, Pawar said, “if Shah is acceptable as BJP president to leaders like Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, it is upto them.”


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