Thane: Key UPA ally NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday said the Centre's ruling coalition had become "vulnerable" after DMK's pullout and that elections were round the corner.

Pawar, Union Agriculture Minister, also said since Congress was the majority party in the UPA, his party would respect its view on the alliance's prime ministerial candidate. "UPA's position has become vulnerable after DMK's pullout. We have to prepare and plan for elections. I have suggested to the UPA chairperson to convene a meeting to discuss this and she is also of the same view," Pawar said.

Amid conflicting voices on who should be the UPA's candidate for Prime Minister's post, Pawar said the coalition's spearhead Congress would have to take a call. "Compared to the last time, UPA has shrunk. It is only the Congress, NCP and National Conference.....Majority party has to take the call. We will respect the majority party's view," he said.

Pawar's statement follows similar hints by Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had last month asked his partymen to gear up for a mid-term poll, citing a "confidential" report. "I have come to know about a confidential report which says that elections will be held in November. You people start preparing for them," he had said addressing party workers in Lucknow.

The Samajwadi Party with 22 MPs and BSP with 21 are providing crucial outside support to the government and bailing it out in times of crises. Pawar also said he will not contest Lok Sabha elections.

To a question on former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari's claim that a UPA leader approached him for help to topple the Central government, Pawar said, "NCP has only 9 MPs and Central government cannot be toppled with nine MPs pulling out." Some media reports had pointed a finger at Pawar as the one whom Gadkari had referred to. The two leaders are said to enjoy a good rapport despite being ideologically on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

The Union Agriculture Minister rejected the charge that he was against the UPA's ambitious food security bill. "I am of the view that the poor should benefit from food security act. If Planning commission says 34 percent of the total population is below poverty line, how can there be 70 percent beneficiaries. This is the only doubt I have raised," he said.


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