Pawar also blames senior Congress leader Arjun Singh for 'orchestrating' his expulsion along with PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar from the party on the foreign origin issue. The trio went to form Nationalist Congress Party.

Pawar recalls in his book 'On My Terms-From the Grassroot to the Corridors of Power' how at a function in Mumbai a university girl had asked him 'in a country of one billion people, why can't the Congress find a leader of Indian origin?'

"The fact that the question was posed by a member of the younger generation indicated that issue had reached far and deep. This means the foreign origin issue (of Sonia Gandhi) would take centre stage in election," the NCP chief says in the book.

The function in Mumbai, reminsces Pawar, took 'some days' prior to the May 15, 1999 meeting of Congress Working Committee called by Gandhi in Delhi where 'for no apparent reason' the Congress president herself raised the subject of her foreign origin and asked party members to voice their opinion on the issue 'candidly'.

According to Pawar, he told the CWC meeting that "The people of India will not forget that then Gandhi family has contributed a lot to this country....but it will be gross mistake to presume that the opposition will not campaign on the foreign origin issue."

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