"Firstly, I don't think UPA III will not be there after the polls, not on Congress' strength alone but with support from other parties. UPA will hold together 100 per cent even if NDA forms the government," Pawar, Union Minister of Agriculture, told PTI in an interview.
The NCP veteran also said he does not see Congress hunt for a new leader like Priyanka Vadra if Vice-President and campaign spearhead Rahul Gandhi fails to deliver in the Lok Sabha elections. "Congress is a funny party. It does get setbacks, it does get revived. If the situation comes (when Congress has to sit in the opposition) a team of good leaders will work under his (Rahul's) leadership," he said.
Pawar said Rahul was doing "very well" during the campaign, travelling a lot and addressing public meetings, but felt he should have joined the government. "If he had joined as a minister in the government, he would have got better experience and people would have seen him perform. But I think he missed the bus. Dr Manmohan Singh had openly invited him," he said.
Asked if Rahul Gandhi will be able to effectively tackle challenges from an aggressive BJP-led administration of Narendra Modi should he become the prime minister, Pawar answered in the affirmative. He said any aggressive assault on Congress will help it revive faster. "First of all I don't believe Modi will become the Prime Minister. Suppose that happens and there is an aggressive assault on Congress, the party will revive like anything because Congressmen will collectively fight, come what may," he said.
When asked whether he too, like the Prime Minister had said of himself, will be prepared to work under Rahul, in the government or opposition, Pawar said Manmohan Singh had referred to working under the young leader in the organisation. "Bhaskar Jadhav is the state unit chief of my party. In the organisation, one has to respect hierarchy. It was in this context Manmohan Singh had said he was prepared to work under Rahul Gandhi," he said.
As for himself working under Rahul, Pawar said as of now he is not interested in joining a government, but kept his options open for the future. "Basically, I am not interested in joining any government. After serving so many years in government I honestly feel I should be away from government and work more for my party. This is my desire, I can't say what will happen tomorrow," he said.
Asked whether two power centres in Congress had denied Manmohan Singh the legitimacy of the leader while real power lay vested in party president Sonia Gandhi, Pawar said," I don't know about Congress but I know about the government. Two power centres I never experienced. Nobody interfered in my job."
Pawar also felt historic legislations like the Food Security Act failed to enthuse voters as much as it should have "largely because we didn't make an aggressive campaign".
About a string of scams overshadowing the performance of the UPA government, the NCP leader said attention was diverted from the good work done by it due to continuous criticism by "interested parties". "There were some allegations and the process of inquiry started. Irrespective of that, unfortunately some continuous criticism was made by certain interested parties and whatever good things have been done, attention was diverted from those good things," he said.
Asked to identify the "interested parties" and if it included the CAG, which had exposed the 2G spectrum scam and Commonwealth Games scam, Pawar said, "the opposition, certain sections of administration...many people started making statements, some after retirement. Yes, some organisations. I don't want to name them."