Katihar/Patna/New Delhi: The Congress on Friday said that Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP) founding member Tariq Anwar is welcome to return shortly after he quit the party and resigned from his Lok Sabha membership over his party chief Sharad Pawar's apparent "clean chit" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Rafale deal.
Lauding Anwar's step, senior Congress leader Prem Chand Mishra said that his party would be keenly watching his next political move and if he chooses to return to the party (Congress), he would be most welcome.
The Bihar NCP leader said that he was completely taken aback with Pawar's clean chit to PM, which he said has shattered the faith of countrymen in the Opposition.
His resignation from the party, which he founded along with Sharad Pawar, has triggered speculation about his next move ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Latching on to the opportunity, the Congress said that Anwar was "welcome" to return to the party from where he started his political career.
Anwar was the Bihar Congress president in the 1980s and had represented his current parliamentary constituency Katihar as a Congress MP for times, before he joined hands with Pawar and deceased Meghalaya leader PA Sangma to form the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999.
The NCP later allied with the Congress and Anwar served as a Union Minister in the UPA-II government.
The announcement, made by Anwar in his parliamentary constituency, is seen as a politically significant development for possible alignments in Bihar, where Congress, NCP and RJD have been part of the 'grand alliance or ''Mahagathbandhan'' against the BJP and its allies.
The Mahagathbandhan camp leaders have lauded Anwar's decision, with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) urging Sharad Pawar to review his stand on the issue.
While, the JD(U), headed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and an ally of the BJP, termed Anwar's move opportunistic and aimed at "greener pastures".
Anwar's Katihar constituency has a large number of Muslim voters and any indication towards his party or party leaders being sympathetic towards the BJP or Modi government could be politically incorrect, party leaders said.
Notwithstanding the ''Modi wave'', Anwar had managed to win 2014 Parliamentary poll from Katihar as the NCP had fought at that time in alliance with the RJD and the Congress.
In a statement after making the announcement before journalists in Katihar, 67-year-old Anwar said he was resigning from the posts of the NCP's national general secretary and as its leader in the Lok Sabha, besides giving up the party's primary membership and vacating his parliamentary seat.
Anwar alleged the Prime Minister is fully involved in the Rafale deal and it was also substantiated by former French President Francois Hollande, referring to his reported remarks about France being left with no option in Dassault selecting Reliance Defence as an offset partner as part of the multi-billion dollar deal.
Anwar's move came a day after media reports quoted Pawar having told a Marathi news channel that he did not think people had doubts over the prime minister's intentions in the Rafale fighter plane deal.
Pawars reported statement was lauded by BJP chief Amit Shah who asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi to take a cue from his ally and place national interests above party politics.
The Congress and other opposition parties have been targeting PM Modi and the NDA government over the Rafale deal, alleging corruption and crony capitalism.
The government has flatly denied the charges.
Attempting to do a course correction, an NCP spokesperson, however, issued a clarification terming the media reports quoting Pawar as "misleading and confusing" and claimed the party chief has had not given a clean chit to Modi.
Sharad Pawar's daughter and NCP MP Supriya Sule too demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.
In a series of tweets, Sule questioned why was the Modi government shying from calling a JPC probe if it was so confident of facts and figures?
RJD spokesman and MLA Bhai Virendra said that his party welcomes the bold stand taken by Anwar. "We urge Sharad Pawar, who is a senior and widely respected leader, to review his stand on the issue," he said.
Meanwhile, JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad said that Pawar had only aligned himself with the popular sentiment in the country.
Calling Anwar;'s move an act of opportunism, Prasad said that he quit his party shortly ahead of Lok Sabha polls to find "greener pastures".
(With PTI Inputs)