Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Friday said that the Congress cannot be left out of an alternative front if it is formed, reported ANI. The statement came three days after Pawar met leaders of eight political parties in a meeting in which Congress was missing.

“Alliance was not discussed in the meeting but if an alternative force is to be raised, it will be done only by taking Congress together,” the NCP chief said. “We need power like that and I had said this in that meeting.”

Pawar also said that he would welcome the Congress’ decision to contest the next elections alone, saying that it was every political party’s right to expand itself.

When asked if he would lead the possible alternative alliance, Pawar said that they have not yet discussed this, adding that the supposed coalition would have a collective leadership. “I did this [leadership] for years but right now I’ll work for keeping everyone together, guiding and strengthening them,” he added.

Tuesday’s meeting came at a time when Opposition parties are exploring ways to come up with a third front ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Speculations were rife that the meeting would be about the upcoming elections after Pawar held discussions with poll strategist Prashant Kishor twice in two weeks. However, Majeed Memon, a leader of NCP, said the meeting was not a political one.

The meeting was attended by eight political parties, including the Trinamool Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, the National Conference, the Samajwadi Party and the Communist Party of India. Apart from politicians, retired Justice AP Shah, former ambassador KC Singh and lyricist Javed Akhtar also participated.

Pawar and former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha, who has now joined the Trinamool Congress, sent out invitations to the parties for the meeting of the Rashtra Manch. The Rashtra Manch is a coalition of Opposition parties that was formed in 2018 to counter the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.