Mumbai: Amid the continuing suspense over the Leader of Opposition issue, NCP president Sharad Pawar on Saturday said the institution was "essential".
"It is essential that there be this institution," Pawar, whose party in a key ally of Congress, told reporters here.
Pawar`s statement came in the backdrop of Congress deciding to write to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to seek an immediate decision in the matter and Congress president Sonia Gandhi insisting that being the single-largest party and pre-poll alliance it was entitled to the post.
"We are the single-largest party. We have got a pre-poll alliance. Hence, we are entitled to the Leader of Opposition`s post," Gandhi had said on Monday, breaking her silence on the issue.
Party spokesman Anand Sharma had said Congress would exercise all options to ensure a "democratically correct and logical conclusion" to the issue and did not rule out the possibility of approaching courts for redress.
About the upcoming Assembly Elections in Maharashtra, due in October, Pawar said a decision on the number of seats to be contested by Congress and NCP would be taken at the national level.
Asked if NCP contesting 50 percent (144 of state`s 288) seats would be a precondition when leaders of the two parties sit to discuss seat-sharing, Pawar said, "it can be more than 144 or less than 144. Winnability will be a factor in the talks."
When pointed out that senior NCP leaders like his nephew and deputy CM Ajit Pawar and state party president Sunil Tatkare have insisted on NCP contesting at least 144 seats given the party`s better performance in the Lok Sabha elections than Congress, Pawar retorted, "please remember that I am the party president."
Asked if NCP will project any leader as a CM candidate ahead of polls, Pawar said, "we will first see what the picture is from the other side. Then we will decide."
When his attention was drawn to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan pleading ignorance about the reported offer from Congress leadership that Pawar lead the joint poll campaign in the state, the NCP chief said, "Chavan was not present at the meeting when the proposal was made."
Pawar described as "table news" reports that Congress leadership had conveyed to him that Chavan`s removal before the assembly polls could be considered if NCP was ready to merge with it.
"The issue of merger was never raised. It seems there is a news manufacturing factory in media now a days," he said.
He also described as "comic" a Marathi newspaper report today which said senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal was on the verge of quitting and rejoining the Shiv Sena.
To a query on Thursday`s blast in Pune, Pawar said, "the state government should consider which forces have been emboldened in the recent times."
On Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil refusing to sanction prosecution of Congress MLA Kripashankar Singh in a disproportionate assets case, Pawar said, "the Speaker is a law graduate. If he has taken a conscious decision, there must be a sound reason."
"The Speaker is an independent authority. He must have taken the decision after assessing all angles," Pawar said.
Noting that the rainfall recorded in the last one month is 42 percent less than average, Pawar said he has discussed monsoon related issues with the Centre and presented a detailed picture.