Samajwadi Party President and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday said he was not in the race for the post of prime minister, PTI reported. He said the country was looking for a new prime minister and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Pary needs to present a new face for the top post.

The BJP has accused the Opposition of not choosing a leader to contest against Modi. “As far as leadership issue is concerned, it is actually the people who decide will see, in time to come, how many choices we have,” Yadav said.

He, however, clarified that he was not in the race. “But, one thing is totally clear that the country is waiting for a new prime minister...if the BJP, which is so concerned about us, has a new prime minister, they should tell the people,” he added.

The Samajwadi party chief also condemned BJP MLA Sadhana Singh’s remarks about Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati. “The one who is occupying the highest position is also using such language,” he said, without naming the prime minister.

Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have formed an alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha elections this year.

Commenting on media reports that the Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh was preparing to give pension to seers, Yadav said they should receive at least Rs 20,000 every month. “Those reciting Ramayana and other such persons should be given at least Rs 20,000 monthly pension,” the Samajwadi party leader added. “Those playing roles of Ram, Lakshman and Sita should also be given pension. Yash Bharti awards [which were handed out by the previous government] should also be restarted.”

Several Opposition leaders attended West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s United India rally in Kolkata on Saturday. Leaders who attended the rally included Yadav, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, chief ministers Chandrababu Naidu, HD Kumaraswamy and Arvind Kejriwal, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, and Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

The prime minister has dismissed the alliance, calling it an alliance of corruption, instability and negativity.

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said Modi was afraid of the Opposition unity. “As you have noticed, the PM has now started talking about the ‘mahagathbandhan’ in his speeches,” he told the press in Ahmedabad. “It shows that the alliance has injected some kind of fear in his mind. Even his body language proves he is now scared of Opposition unity.”

Yashwant Sinha pitches himself for PM post

Meanwhile, former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on Monday jokingly pitched himself for the post of prime minister. Speaking at Shri Ram College’s Economic Summit at Delhi University, Sinha, a former BJP leader, said a new prime minister was needed to set the Indian economy right in the next five years.

When asked who the person was, he said nobody. “The closest is me, myself,” Sinha chuckled, according to NDTV.

He also claimed that there was no chance that Union minister Nitin Gadkari would be a candidate for the top post. “There is no hope in hell for that,” he said, NDTV reported. “Why I am saying it is, because I know the kind of vice-like grip the current prime minister and the party president have over the BJP and even after the loss of elections where they could be below 200, they will not retire from their leadership.”