Cong has right to nominate its leader: Pawar

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{image-sharad pawar01_14042008.jpg}Nagpur, Apr 14: Asserting that it was the prerogative of the Congress to nominate anybody, including Rahul Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi, as its leader after next year's general elections, NCP chief and Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar today said that no other party had any right to object to it.

Speaking at a 'meet the press' programme, hosted by Nagpur Union of Working Journalists (NUWJ) here, Mr Pawar said the NCP had no reason to object to who was elected as leader of the Congress. ''The NCP has the right to elect its own leader. The Congress has the same right,'' he said. However, the issue of choice of a leader would arise only after the next Lok Sabha polls, Mr Pawar said adding everything will depend upon the situation that emerges after the polls.

Asked if there was any change in his opposition to Ms Gandhi becoming Prime Minister, Mr Pawar retorted: ''The issue has already been settled. Ms Gandhi has clarified that she does not want to become Prime Minister.'' Replying to questions, Mr Pawar said it 'did not appear' that the third front being attempted to be formed by some parties would be able to provide a 'viable alternative' to the country. ''These parties do not have sufficient numbers,'' he said.

Although the prices of food items in the domestic market were much lower that those in the international market, these were still at an 'unaffordable level' for the poor, the Agriculture Minister said. The rise in prices was due to a disparity in demand and supply, and the Centre had already initiated steps to remedy the situation, he pointed out.

Mr Pawar said the government was examining ways and means to provide loan waiver to more farmers in the country. ''We want to provide succour to farmers in drought-prone areas and those holding more than five acres of land that is non-irrigated,'' he said.

However, the process would take at least a year, and the government would be in a position to announce the steps only after that, Mr Pawar said.

''As of now, we want to complete by June 2008 the process of providing loan waiver to farmers holding less that five acres of land. The loan waiver would cover 81.89 per cent of the country's farmers,'' he added.


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