Sharad Pawar’s NCP puts Congress on notice

After expressing its unhappiness about some aspects of the UPA’s working, the NCP led by Sharad Pawar has put the Congress on notice.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: After expressing its unhappiness about some aspects of the UPA’s working, the NCP led by Sharad Pawar has put the Congress on notice. The party has said it will meet on Monday to take a final call on the issues it has raised with the Congress.

It may be noted that Pawar had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi yesterday, amid speculation that he was unhappy over many issues and may quit the Cabinet along with his colleague Praful Patel from the NCP. In fact, reports even said the duo have already handed their resignations.

Pawar is upset at not being accorded the No 2 status in the Union Cabinet, which has gone to Defence Minister AK Antony after Pranab Mukherjee decided to run for the President.

Other reasons that have caused the rift between the twin allies included Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde`s likely elevation as the new Leader of House in the Lok Sabha, the lack of a coordination panel within the UPA, and a feeling of being left out while the Congress takes key decisions.

Political observers said Pawar`s unease could also be related to the functioning of Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. The NCP is a coalition partner in Maharashtra.

The Congress yesterday tried to reach out to the NCP but the strain in their ties continued.

Congress leadership tried through the day to send a positive message across to its estranged ally with Sonia Gandhi meeting Pawar in the morning and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh terming him a great asset.

The Congress core group also took up the issue at a meeting on Friday evening and party sources said afterwards that the matter concerning NCP had been "settled." They said the issue was more to do with coordination in the government than any fight for number two position in the Union Cabinet.

However, NCP sources said they were waiting for the Congress to reach out to them in more concrete terms.

"We will meet Monday afternoon to take a decision. The number two position in the order of precedence is not the issue, the issue is much larger," a NCP leader told a news agency.

He did not rule out the possibility of its ministers quitting and the party giving outside support to UPA government if their issues were not resolved.

The PM, who had spoken to Pawar on Thursday, sought to reach out to him, saying his experience had benefited the government.

"Sharad Pawar is a very valued colleague whose knowledge, wisdom and experience are a great asset to our government," the Prime Minister said, a day after Pawar and his party colleague and Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel boycotted the Cabinet meeting.

Congress sought to downplay the crisis.

"NCP has given clarification... Prime Minister has also spoken. There can be different viewpoint among allies on an issue but a solution can be found through talks," Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi said.

However the NCP earlier Friday conveyed in unambiguous terms that it was unhappy over some aspects of the coalition but said it continues to be integral part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

NCP leader Praful Patel said that the UPA government should be more decisive and should gear up for 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

He had sidetracked questions about NCP ministers offering to quit.

"We are unhappy with some aspects raised by Pawar in personal meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi," Patel said after a meeting with his colleagues Tariq Anwar and DP Tripathi.

"The issue is not about resignations at all," he said.

Although Patel downplayed Pawar`s reported unhappiness over not been accorded the number 2 slot in the Cabinet, NCP sources said he was indeed concerned over the development.

The NCP has nine members in the Lok Sabha and has been in the UPA since 2004.

(With IANS inputs)