Congress will not insist on Prime Minister’s post: Azad

Sonia is said to have reached out to potential allies for a meet on govt formation

May 16, 2019 11:15 pm | Updated May 17, 2019 05:36 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. File

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. File

The Congress has said it is not averse to offering the post of prime minister to the leader of a regional party.

This comes amid reports that the party's former chief, Sonia Gandhi, has reached out to potential allies for a meet on May 23 to discuss government formation in case of a hung verdict.

The Congress, however, refused to confirm or deny if Ms. Gandhi had ‘formally written’ to regional parties, including non-UPA allies, inviting them for a dinner meet.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters at the Congress office in Shimla on Thursday. “My party high command has already made it clear that the Congress is not averse to making a leader from any regional party the prime minister.”

Barely 24 hours ago, Mr. Azad said in Patna that the Congress “will not make an issue” if the prime minister’s post is not offered to the party.

“We are in the last phase of elections and I can say on the basis of my experience during campaigning across the country that neither the BJP nor the NDA is going to return to power at the Centre. Narendra Modi is also not going to become the prime minister for the second time,” he said.

Apart from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee is also the front runner for the prime minister post. She has been in touch with Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who too has projected himself as one of the contenders even though the TRS has never been part of any of the Opposition meetings.

“In the absence of first-hand information, I will not like to confirm or deny so far,”said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, who sought to downplay Mr Azad's remarks on the prime minister question.

“The Congress certainly believes and in the final outcome on May 23, we will be the biggest political party in the country with the blessings of the people of India. Naturally, the biggest political party should get a chance to lead. However, what will happen on May 23, I am not going to pre-empt and prejudge today,”he added.

Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram tweeted, “After 6 phases of polling, it is absolutely clear that the next government will be formed by non-BJP parties, including the Congress."

Senior Congress leader like Ahmed Patel and Mr Azad are believed to be working on a plan to reach out to Ms. Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who have shunned publicly shunned the Congress's overtures in the past.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath too is reported to have got in touch with Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is his personal friend.

“As of now, there is a no formal invite from anyone. Chandrababu Naidu ji [Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister] tried for a meeting on May 21 but most believe numbers will decide our next course of action,”said a senior Opposition leader.

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