UNB, New Delhi
Speculation is rife that veteran politician Sharad Pawar could be the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) choice for the post of India's President.
The presidential elections are due in India next year.
What has bolstered the rumours is Pawar's 50-minute meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the latter's residence in the national capital on Saturday morning.
"Rajya Sabha MP Shri Sharad Pawar met PM Narendra Modi," the Prime Minister's Office tweeted, tagging a photo of the meeting.
However, earlier this week, the 80-year-old chief of the regional Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) denied that he's a candidate for the post of President amid reported strains in the alliance ruling the western state of Maharashtra. Pawar's NCP is in the alliance.
"It is wrong to say that I am a candidate for the Presidential election," Pawar told the media on Wednesday.
Political pundits, however, claimed that Modi's BJP could well be keen on making Pawar a candidate for the post of President as he was the one who had taken the initiative to cobble together an opposition wall ahead of the last general elections.
"The country will go to polls in 2024. Pawar could be a threat to the ruling party. So, to pacify him, the BJP could project him as the country's next President," said Prof Anita Sinha, a political analyst.
Pawar is a prominent politician in India. During his long political career, Pawar has served as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra thrice and also held the posts of Defence and Agriculture Minister in the federal government.
The astute politician is the president of NCP which he founded in 1999, after separating from the Congress party, now in opposition.