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Key Congress ally Sharad Pawar says Rahul Gandhi must prove himself


Rajdeep Sardesai,CNN-IBN
Oct 24, 2013 at 08:56pm IST

New Delhi: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday said that Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has to prove his mettle before he considers a greater role after the 2014 general elections.

Speaking to CNN-IBN Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, the veteran political leader said, "One has to prove his mettle in administration. Rahul Gandhi should have joined the Manmohan Singh government. He did not join."

Pawar refused to elaborate on the issue saying that he is not opposed to Rahul Gandhi's candidature for the post of prime

minister. He predicted that both Congress and BJP may not do well and get enough seats to be in the driver's seat after the Lok Sabha elections.

He said, "The BJP might get some more seats. The Congress might lose some. But the numbers may not add up."

He reasserted his support to the Congress-led UPA irrespective of poll results. Reacting to a question on Narendra Modi he said, "I have contested 14 elections so far. In my experience, those who begin much earlier will be disappointed."

The NCP leader also did not rule out a 1996 like situation and said Congress must work with allies. He made it clear that he is not going to contest the next Lok Sabha elections dismissing rumours that he is also in the race for the post of the prime minister.

When asked about the skyrocketing onion price, Pawar admitted that somebody in the supply and demand chain has made windfall profits. He said that his ministry was not responsible for the 'onion crisis' and the Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs was the concerned ministry.

"The people who are blaming should know the ground realities. To increase the production of agriculture produces is my job. The production of onion is on the higher side this year. The kharif crop of onion has been damaged due to un-seasonal rain in major onion growing states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. The farmers were unable to take their crops to market," said Pawar.

He dismissed reports that onion export has led to shortage in the country. He reiterated that the ban on export will have no impact on onion growers as the domestic price is higher than the foreign price. He said, "The government does not decide price of onion. Market decides the price. It comes under the state governments and they must take action."

He lamented that farmers made no money due to soaring onion prices and the middle-men made a lot of money. However, he rejected all charges that he is batting for the traders and cartels.

He said, "It is irrational, illogical and unethical to blame me and the NCP for this."

Supporting a free agriculture market he said, "My efforts are to ensure that there will be no restriction of export of any

agricultural product." He added that more onions would come to market in the next two weeks and it could lead to a price

crash affecting the farmers.

He said that except Delhi, onion was not going to have an impact on the Assembly election results. He said, "Food Security Bill covers 80 per cent of the rural population. It results in substantial savings. They can buy other products with

the savings."

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