Never said Pawar should replace Sonia as UPA chairperson: Raut

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Mumbai, Apr 1 (PTI) Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Thursday claimed he never said that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi should be replaced by NCP president Sharad Pawar as the UPA chairperson, and added that he had only underscored the need to strengthen the alliance.

He said that all the opposition parties need to come together to form a strong alliance at the national level.

His remarks come in the wake of Maharashtra Congress leaders criticising him for his suggestion that Pawar should take over as United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson.

'I have never said Sonia Gandhi should be replaced by Sharad Pawar as UPA chairperson. There is a need to strengthen the UPA for the sake of the country. I just said there is a need to strengthen the opposition alliance. I haven't criticised Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi,' Raut said.

'I fact, I have stood up for them whenever they were targeted by the political rivals,' he told a television channel, when asked about the Congress leaders' criticism over his recent remarks.

On being asked about his 'accidental home minister' comment against Anil Deshmukh, Raut said, 'Something happening by accident is a phrase. One always sees an opportunity in an accident.' To a question on Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar's remarks that nobody should play spoilsport in a coalition government, the Rajya Sabha member said, 'People have played spoilsport by taking oath early morning.' He was referring to Ajit Pawar's early morning swearing-in with Devendra Fadnavis before the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government after the 2019 Assembly polls. Fadnavis and Pawar had taken oath as the chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively. However, their government had lasted for only 80 hours.

Replying to a question whether the Shiv Sena would join the UPA or go back to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Raut said his party does not play politics of convenience.

'Our alliance with Congress and NCP here was need of the hour since we felt we were cheated by the BJP,' he said.

Raut hit out at Maharashtra Governor B S Koshyari for taking no decision on nominating 12 members from his quota to the state legislative council.

'The governor doesn't want the MVA to increase its strength in the Legislative Council. He feels the government will not last. But the MVA is strong and will last its full term,' he said. PTI MR NP NP