New Delhi: UPA constituent NCP on Monday kept the Congress guessing on its pullout plans as it blew hot and cold on the being a part of the government at the Centre.
Sulking NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his party colleague Praful Patel skipped the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the honour of outgoing President Pratibha Patil.
Earlier in the day, NCP Working Committee met here to discuss its options in the wake of party chief Sharad Pawar`s communication to the Congress leadership last week expressing a desire to quit the government along with another minister Praful Patel on issues like better functioning of the coalition.
At the end of the hour-long deliberations Patel told reporters in the in the national capital that NCP won’t rock the UPA boat till 2014 General Elections.
“No decision could be taken today on NCP’s continuation in the Congress-led UPA government since most of the party leaders from Maharashtra could not come to Delhi to attend the meet. We will meet again tomorrow and take a decision in this regard.”
“By tomorrow or day after, a final decision (on pulling out) will be taken,” Patel said.
Patel, though, admitted that there were some issues related to Congress party’s unilateral functioning, said NCP was very much a party of the Congress-led alliance at the centre.
“I want to state categorically that what is being reported in media is incorrect. There are some issues with the ruling party but we are a responsible ally and will remain so. We will continue to support the UPA-II government till the end,” Patel stated.
When quizzed by the reporters that the present crisis facing the UPA government is due to Sharad Pawar’s growing ambition and his desire to wield his political influence on the government, Patel said, “Sharad Pawar is not seeking the chair next to the Prime Minister. Current standoff is not a ploy to seek anything.”
On the continuance of Agatha Sangma, daughter of PA Sangma and a junior minister in UPA government, Patel said that she has agreed to tow the party line and will comply by its decisions.
Patel further informed that he, Sharad Pawar and Agatha Sangma will continue to skip office till the reported standoff with the Congress is resolved.
Meanwhile, Congress sought to downplay the rift with NCP saying such situations keep arising in coalition politics and indicated that back-channel talks were underway to resolve the issue.
AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said the issues between the two parties will be resolved through talks.
The NCP leadership is reportedly upset with the Congress party’s `unilateral` approach in `decision making`.
The NCP has complained to the UPA leadership that certain key decisions by the government were communicated to them after they were taken by a few Congress leaders.
In a letter sent to the Prime Minister last week, Pawar warned that his party may choose to opt out of the UPA government at the Centre and provide external support.
It was also reported last week that both Pawar and his deputy Praful Patel had sent their resignations to Prime Minister, which was not accepted.
Later, the NCP chief met Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to express his concerns about the Congress party’s unilateral functioning. See how DHL is simplifying Logistics
Sources in the government, however, say that friction between the allies in Maharashtra could well be the reason behind the tension in Delhi.
Sources claim that NCP is upset with the Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and want him replaced.
Sources say Chavan may have upset NCP leaders including Pawar`s nephew, Ajit Pawar, by asking for a white paper to explain the accounts spent on irrigation. Ajit Pawar was Irrigation Minister from 2000 to 2009. The portfolio is now held by the NCP`s Sunil Tatkare. The chief minister wants accounts for the last 10 years to be examined.
The NCP wants Ajit Pawar`s term exempted and has suggested the inquiry to look at the last three years. The allegation is that despite over Rs. 70,000 crore being spent on dams, only 0.1% of land was added to the area under irrigation.
Maharashtra`s Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar of the NCP, made a counter- attack on Chavan, saying the Urban Development Department, which is under the CM, had under-utilised funds allocated to it.
Amid widening gaps between Ajit Pawar and Chavan, there is a feeling that the NCP`s ministers are being targeted in Maharashtra.
NCP chief is also learnt to have given a communication detailing his party`s observations on the UPA government. Sources in the NCP said the communication was keeping in view of the next General Elections.
The UPA managers are working overtime to resolve the crisis that has erupted after the Sharad Pawar-led NCP decided to abstain from the Cabinet meeting last Thursday.