Four years after breaking away from the Congress over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins, the Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar has now gone further than ever before on forging an alliance with the Congress.

“We are ready for an alliance outside Maharashtra and the leadership issue can be decided after the elections,” said Pawar.

Pawar’s remarks to NDTV come at a time when the Left, for the first time, says it will back Sonia as a future prime minister.

“If the country elects Sonia Gandhi as the leader of the largest party how can we reject her as prime minister? We will accept her,” said CPI-M leader Somnath Chatterjee.

Who’s the leader?

But forging an anti-NDA front as the Opposition proposes is easier said than done.

Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, the man who scuttled Sonia Gandhi’s chances in 1999, is also unwilling to commit himself beyond agreeing to talks on seat-sharing.

What could make it tougher for Pawar and Yadav is the Congress’s insistence that there can be no compromise on Sonia’s leadership.

“Sonia Gandhi is our leader and will be our leader, whether alone or in a coalition,” said Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy.

While all major Opposition parties seem to have decided that a grand alliance is the only way to take on the NDA in the next elections, the Sonia factor will be crucial and will decide the nature and the cohesiveness of this prospective grouping.