Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar on Thursday likened the Congress with zamindars, or feudal landlords, who existed before the zamindari system was abolished in the country following India’s Independence, reported NDTV.

When asked if the Congress was indifferent to a united Opposition if Rahul Gandhi is not leading it, Pawar narrated an anecdote about zamindars.

“I had told a story about UP [Uttar Pradesh] zamindars, who used to have huge land parcels and big havelis,” he said. “After the Land Ceiling Act, their lands shrank to 15-20 acres. They did not even have the power to maintain their havelis. Every morning, they got up, looking at the land, and said that this all used to be ours.”

Pawar, who made the statement during an interview to Mumbai Tak news channel, said the Congress has the same mentality as the feudal landlords. He said that the party needs to accept the reality that it does not have the same presence across the country that it had before.

The Congress’ control over states has reduced significantly after the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

“There was a time when there was Congress from Kashmir to Kanyakumari,” Pawar said. “But not so anymore. This [reality] should be accepted. The closeness [with other Opposition parties] will increase once there is a mentality [within the Congress] to accept this [fact].”

However, Pawar said the Congress is the only party in the country that has a pan India presence and could be an alternative to the BJP, reported India Today.

“The Congress was stronger [in the past], unlike today when they have 40-45 MPs,” he said. “At that time, they had a strength of around 140. But it’s the only party that is relevant in the country. It has governments in five to seven states. The only party that has a national presence against the BJP is the Congress.”

The Nationalist Congress Party leader also downplayed speculations around his meetings with political strategist Prashant Kishor.

“I don’t need any help from Prashant Kishor,” he said. “Moreover, I don’t have any ambitions today of any post. But yes, I would like to make efforts to bring the Opposition together.”

The meeting between Kishor and Pawar had fuelled speculations about an united Opposition in the 2024 General Assembly elections.