Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday said that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati could be the top contenders for the prime minister’s post after the Lok Sabha elections.

“Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat before taking over as the prime minister,” Pawar told The Times of India. “In my opinion, since the possibility of the National Democratic Alliance securing a clear majority is remote, Banerjee, Naidu and Mayawati are better options for the prime minister’s post.”

Pawar also denied that he had told Zee News in an interview that Banerjee, Naidu and Mayawati are better choices for the post that Congress President Rahul Gandhi. He told The Times of India that Gandhi himself had said he was not a candidate for the post of prime minister. “So any debate on that point is irrelevant,” he added.

An unidentified senior Congress leader told the daily that if the National Democratic Alliance fails to secure a majority in the Lok Sabha elections, Pawar could work towards bringing all anti-BJP parties together to keep Modi out of power. He said even the Shiv Sena, which is an ally of the BJP, may support this proposal.

Last month, Pawar had claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party may emerge as the single largest group after the elections, but Modi will not become the prime minister again. “BJP may emerge as the single largest party post parliamentary elections and will have to seek support of allies,” the former Maharashtra chief minister said.

The 2019 General Elections are being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. The results will be out on May 23.